ontario news watch
British Columbia
Other Categories

B.C.’s Joffre Lakes Park to have partial closure, allowing for conservation, tourism

PEMBERTON, BRITISH COLUMBIA — An agreement between the B.C. government and the First Nations that manage Joffre Lakes Provincial Park will see the popular tourist spot closed for part of the year to protect its “natural and cultural values.”

The announcement comes after a disagreement over the park’s public use led the Lilwat and N’Quatqua First Nations to shut down access to the park for about a month last year.

Environment Minister George Heyman said Thursday that the decision to close the park for short stretches comes after consultation with the two nations and talks with other locals about “heavy visitor use.”

“What we want to do around the province is collaborate with First Nations around management of parks where they’re interested, around ensuring that we have a good sense of how much load the environment in the park can take without actually destroying the features that bring people there,” Heyman said.

In 2019, visits to the park with mountain peaks and aqua-blue lakes reached an all-time high of 193,000 visitors, an increase of more than 200 per cent since 2010. 

Visitors to the park are now required to reserve free day-use passes in order to reduce visitor impact on the natural environment, and Heyman said 500 passes are allowed per day.

The park will be closed this season from April 30 to May 15, June 14 to 23 and from Sept. 3 to Oct. 6, allowing the Indigenous communities to conduct cultural celebrations and traditional fall harvesting practices.

Heyman said the closures will also allow the park to “rest and recuperate,” with visitor counts reaching as high as 1,000 a day before restrictions were put in place. 

Lilwat Nation Chief Dean Nelson said in a statement the park area is sacred for his community and the closures are necessary for his people’s well-being.

“By implementing these closures, we are striving to reintroduce our community to an area where they have been marginalized,” he said. “The time and space created by these closures will allow our youth, elders and all Lilwat citizens to practise their inherent rights while reconnecting with the land.”

The Lilwat and N’Quatqua nations stopped public access to the park for parts of August and September last year for their harvest celebrations, saying they were asserting their title rights on the land.

Heyman said the Lilwat and N’Quatqua Nations’ desire for periods of closure at Joffre Lakes “is not an unreasonable request,” and the province will deal with similar requests from other Indigenous groups on a case-by-case basis.

The province said its monitoring of the increasing impact of visitors at Joffre Lakes has found the “need for enhanced visitor-use management” to prevent the degradation of the environment due to “unsustainably high human traffic.”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 25, 2024.

The Canadian Press

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *