Province questions outdoor enthusiasts' parking plan for Rubble Creek trailhead 

'We were not given any other options,' says UBC Varsity Outdoor Club organizer

click to enlarge PHOTO BY KYLIE SCHATZ - Dig in, DIG OUT About 50 outdoor enthusiasts dug out a section of Daisy Lake Road on Saturday, March 7.
  • Photo by Kylie Schatz
  • Dig in, DIG OUT About 50 outdoor enthusiasts dug out a section of Daisy Lake Road on Saturday, March 7.

Around 50 outdoor enthusiasts picked up shovels and ice axes on Saturday, March 7, in an effort to dig out a major section of Daisy Lake Road to create parking for people wanting to access the Rubble Creek trailhead.

The province, however, wants the public to know that parking along the shoulder of the road, which begins about 26 kilometres south of Whistler, is prohibited, as the area in question lies within the Rubble Creek Landslide Zone.

"We were not given any other options," said Haley Foladare, huts coordinator for the VOC, when asked about the situation.

"We feel it is a risk worth taking."

In total, volunteers cleared about 20 spaces for cars to park, she said.

In past years, backcountry enthusiasts parked alongside the first section of Daisy Lake Road, which is plowed in the winter, then trekked up an unplowed section of the road to access the trailhead.

But this summer, the province placed "no parking" signage on the plowed section.

According to the province, its concern stems from the fact that The Barrier—a massive, natural lava dam that holds up Garibaldi Lake—could collapse, triggering a major landside and flooding.

"Parking along the road is prohibited because of the potential collapse of the barrier at [Garibaldi] Lake, as well as to allow access by maintenance vehicles and to help ensure safety in the hazard zone," reads a statement from the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI).

The most recent major landslide in the area, which occurred around 1855, resulted in debris spilling through the area all the way to where Highway 99 is now.

In the early 1980s, concerns about The Barrier's instability prompted the provincial government to declare the area immediately below it unsafe for human habitation.

It also led to the relocations of a small resort village away from the hazard zone.

Simon Fraser University Earth Sciences professor John Clague said that he sees a discrepancy in the province's position.

He noted that the parking lot for the Rubble Creek trailhead also lies within the hazard zone.

"There's an inconsistency," he said. "If they're going to say you can't park along the access road, then you shouldn't be able to park at the parking lot."

While Clague is an agreement that people shouldn't be allowed to live within the hazard zone, he said parking within it is a "very different matter."

"I mean, you can ask yourself, what are the chances that you're going to get another landslide when we haven't had one in 150 years?" he said.

Like members of the outdoor community, Clague said access to the park is effectively being choked off.

"If you're not going to allow [parking], then you're sterilizing the park," he said.

Asked about the supposed discrepancy, the province stated that the area of road in question is more susceptible to a landslide event than the parking lot.

"While the existing parking lot is located within the hazard area, it is at the edge of the anticipated debris movement along Rubble Creek should a landslide occur," read the MOTI statement.

"Highway 99 and most of Daisy Lake Road leading to the parking lot are within the area predicted to be impacted the most, as lands below 400 metres in elevation are expected to be buried by debris in the event of a landslide.

"The goal of the Rubble Creek Landslide Hazard Zone is to reduce the risk to life and property by limiting people's exposure to the hazard."

Having helped organize the dig-out, Foladare said she is hopeful the event will galvanize a long-term solution to the accessibility issues.

The VOC and other members of the outdoor community have been calling on the province to plow the Daisy Lake Road as well as the parking lot at the trailhead as a potential solution.

The VOC operates a hut that is accessed via the trailhead, the Burton Hut, and the area is popular among club members for trips.

"Access to this area is important," said Foladare.

"It would be cool if BC Parks plowed the road—or at least a small section of it."

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