Lil'wat Nation and province working on management plan for hot springs 

Public survey about future management of for Keyhole and Meager Creek out now

click to enlarge PHOTO BY MEGAN LALONDE - Hot toddy The province and Lil'wat Nation are currently in the process of developing a management plan for Keyhole Hotsprings, pictured here.
  • Photo by Megan Lalonde
  • Hot toddy The province and Lil'wat Nation are currently in the process of developing a management plan for Keyhole Hotsprings, pictured here.

The province and Lil'wat Nation are working collaboratively on a visitor-use management plan for two popular hot springs located in the Upper Lillooet River Valley.

Harriet VanWart, director of lands and resources for the Lil'wat Nation, said the First Nation is concerned about overuse of the Meager Creek and Keyhole hot springs, both of which have specific closures in effect that are being flouted.

"The province approached us with an interest to addressing these areas and our council supported working collaboratively with them, and using [a] visitor-use management strategy framework to guide us through the process," said VanWart.

The First Nation is seeking to work "proactively" to avert a scenario that could see even more people flock to the Meager Creek Hot Springs in the future, said VanWart. "We want to try to get ahead of the curve before it gets too heavily used, and make sure we have a good plan on for how to manage it," she said.

The Meager Creek Hot Springs recreation site has been closed since the 2010 Capricorn landslide destroyed access to the area, and the Keyhole Hot Springs has been closed seasonally (from Apr. 1 to Nov. 15) since 2017 to support grizzly bear recovery.

Despite this, both sites continue to see visitation in breach of their respective closures.

Moreover, recently upgraded industrial roads in the Upper Lillooet and Meager Creek Drainage areas have improved vehicle access to both areas, allowing easier public access.

As part of the management plan process, the parties have enlisted the Fraser Basin Council (FBC), a non-profit environmental organization, to help facilitate public engagement.

The FBC recently launched a public survey to allow people to share their views on future management plans.

Lil'wat Nation is simultaneously conducting its own internal engagement process, said VanWart, adding that the nation held a community meeting in November to discuss the issues at play.

"We've actually got our own survey out for Lil'wat citizens," she said. "[It] was posted just before Christmas and will be left open, online until the end of January."

In a letter to the province, Tourism Pemberton President Mark Mendonca said that while the organization supports the Meager Hot Springs closure, it would like to see a management plan put in place that could ensure year-round access for the Keyhole Hot Springs.

"The Keyhole Hot Springs presents an extremely important opportunity to both the locals and guests of the valley being the sole hot spring in the area," said the letter, which was included in the Jan. 14 Village of Pemberton council meeting package.

"Management of the area is extremely important so we would like to see an onsite patroller in this remote area who can collect a fee as was done in the past with Meager Hot Springs.

"The fee and onsite staff would be used to mitigate any of the overuse issues."

According to a statement sent to Pique from a spokesperson for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development, the results of the FBC survey will be used to inform future management decisions at both sites.

"We are in the early stages of this project and at this time have not proposed any changes to management at either site," said the statement. "Future management efforts will be determined once the engagement period is closed and the results are reviewed."

The spokesperson also added that a person trespassing in a closed area can face fines of up to $1,000 and that there may be "additional fines depending on how someone arrives."

"There is a seasonal motor vehicle prohibition, enforced through the Wildlife Act, on the Lillooet South Forest Service Road (FSR)," wrote the spokesperson. "Motorized access is prohibited past the 2 km locked gate on the Lillooet South FSR between April 1 to June 15, and again from September 16 to November 30, every year."

The last date to participate in the FBC survey is Feb. 28, 2020.

You can find the survey here: fraserbasin.bc.ca/Hot_Springs_Survey.html.

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