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'Gobsmacked': government park money lands in Coquitlam backcountry with no plan

Investments at Pinecone Burke will add five new backcountry campsites, and improvements to hiking and mountain biking trails, but why the money is coming before a draft park management plan — scheduled for a release in summer 2021 — is 'an utter mystery,' says the head of one outdoor recreation group
Hiking in Pinecone Burke Provincial Park north of Coquitlam.

The B.C. government has announced it will pour $5 million into infrastructure projects at 24 BC Parks, including Pinecone Burke Provincial Park in Coquitlam in what some outdoor recreation groups are describing as “deferred maintenance.”

The money, which had been previously earmarked as part of a larger COVID-19 spending package, comes as a coalition of outdoor recreation groups prepares to petition the province to provide a $60-million boost to B.C. Parks after what they say are years of chronic underfunding. 

“Everybody is gobsmacked. Like, what? Where did this come from?” asked Barry Janyk, executive director of Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC.

“It’s good to see the province investing, albeit in a minor way … But I’d like to see some significant funds come (provincial budget time).”

Top of the coalition’s list are parks serving B.C.’s bustling population centres of the Lower Mainland, like Pinecone Burke, a 38,000-hectare wilderness area spanning old-growth forests, alpine lakes and icefields. 

Investments at Pinecone Burke will add five new backcountry campsites, and improve hiking and mountain biking trails. 

But at nearly 100 times the size of Stanley Park, the Lower Mainland park has been without a park management plan for over 25 years. In announcing the new funding, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said it would release a draft of the plan for public comment by summer 2021. 

“Here they are, they’re planning to put all this stuff into Pinecone Burke and yet they don’t have a management plan. How can you do that?” said Janyk, adding, “(It) is a complete and utter mystery. 

Outside of Pinecone Burke, other parks in the Metro area and Sea-to-Sky corridor will receive upgrades as part of the latest $5 million announcement. They include: 

  • An expanded parking lot, new pit toilets and a communal bear-safe food storage locker to serve the campgrounds at Alice Lake in Squamish;
  • Potable water upgrades and infrastructure to prevent shoreline erosion at Porteau Cove, a popular diving destination;
  • And a variety of other infrastructure projects across the province that include upgrades to water systems, parking lots, multi-use trails, campground facilities, backcountry facilities and accessibility improvements.

As part of B.C.’s $10-billion COVID-19 response package, the $5 million in new funding will also pay for new electric vehicle charging stations in some day-use areas in northwest B.C., with projects scheduled for completion in the spring.

BC Parks manages 1,035 provincial parks and protected areas across 14 million hectares — an area larger than the country of Greece — and receives more than 23 million visits each year.