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Grassroots Initiative Underway Addresses Fire, Water Concerns

Updated: Mar 26

Possible 'Win-Win' solution for hikers and watershed protection


Plan for rerouting existing trail.

(Editor's note, March 25: Due to privacy concerns, resident names have been removed at their request.)


A grassroots initiative aimed at reducing the risk of watershed contamination, enabling effective parking and traffic management in the village, as well as reducing the fire danger to hikers and residents is currently taking hold in Lions Bay.


The proposal has developed through informal discussions among local residents with by-law officers, and MLA Jordan Sturdy, as well as dog walkers, resident hikers and hikers from other communities. The current proposal is to relocate all hiker parking from the village to the gravel pit, and from there, redirect hikers along an alternate route that bypasses the village water intake and cuts the risk of contamination of the watershed.


"No other municipality in the Lower Mainland allows this level of exposure to their water infrastructure," says the concerned resident behind the plan. "The last thing we want is to become another Walkerton." (Walkerton, Ontario was the site of a contaminated water source that sickened more than 2,300 people and caused seven deaths in May, 2000.)


The resident is also concerned about “Lions Bay’s risk of becoming another Lytton, BC.” Lytton was the small community razed to the ground by fire, and which caused two deaths in 2021. She notes that since Lions Bay rests on a heavily-treed mountainside, in a dry fire season the hikers and residents would get very little lead time if a human-caused fire starts nearby.


Since there is no controlling lightning, she reasons that it makes sense to reduce the risk of human caused fires, while at the same time providing better access for hikers. Statistics show that all of the fires local to Lions Bay in recent years have been human-caused. Additionally, she notes that in the event that fire retardant or salt water is necessary to extinguish a forest fire above the community, the soil could then become toxic and the village water source could be contaminated, a risk that makes no sense to take unless there is no other option.


Under the alternate access, hikers would drive up to the new lot directly along the existing road to the gravel pit from the highway. The parking payment infrastructure and porta-potties would be relocated into one place close by. Hikers could pay for their parking and set off along the new trail, which will no longer cross above the village water intake at Magnesia Creek. The idea is that bylaw enforcement in the Village could be shared with the new parking area, and even possibly reduced.


The new trail would also allow for a more direct route for the hikers, meaning a swifter return in case of emergency. "We've just gone through the driest summer in recorded history here," notes the resident. "As it stands right now, if people are caught at Tunnel Bluffs and a fire breaks out, they could be in serious trouble."


According to data from Lions Bay Public Works, approximately 80% of the hikers passing through the Village are bound for Tunnel Bluffs. Hikers have been coming through the community in much greater numbers since the Province shut down the previous parking area near the highway.


In the company of other local hikers, this concerned resident has explored some of the new trail himself, held preliminary discussions with local MLA Jordan Sturdy and is connecting with hiking groups around BC. "The provincial government would have to be on board, in order to free up the gravel pit from the current lease to Capilano Highways," he says. "But before that, we're going to have to show that we have the support of other local residents”.


To that end, the residents are looking for help from their neighbours. They are in the process of drafting a petition to bring before the various levels of government. Once they've got the petition drafted, they want to interact with other residents face-to-face.


Further support in writing will be sought from hiking/mountaineering groups. Preliminary discussions have been very favourable. "We could just put this petition on line, but then we miss out talking to each other. I have yet to speak to anyone about this initiative who didn't give it their whole support after listening to the reasons behind the plan,” he says. “If we can have volunteers go door to door, we can explain the plan and answer questions on the spot. They could show maps and provide information directing people to the online petition. Paper copies could be made available for those without online access.”


These concerned residents have lived in the village for forty years. They have brought up three children in Lions Bay, and are now the proud grandparents of several grandchildren, three of whom are growing up here. Through the years they have been active in village life, with Hans participating in Search and Rescue, and Teresa helping fundraise for the new beach-park playscape and helping organize recreational events like the Hallowe'en Dance. They both put in long hours working on the playscape installation, as well as the original Lori Beck Memorial BBQ Pit. They are a well-known presence on village construction sites, having renovated, added on to or repaired many homes in the community.


From the vantage point of their family home, the residents have spotted and called in more than a half-dozen fires over the years. They consider themselves the unofficial ‘canary in the coal mine’ as they are generally in the village all summer due to the construction season. They've watched the village grow and develop around them, from the rough track they had to drive up to access their property when they first moved into their house in the woods to the busy village Lions Bay has become today. And now, they say a change needs to be made.


"This is not a NIMBY situation. We want to keep the hikers –we are former hikers ourselves –and just relocate the parking so both the hikers and the residents of Lions Bay are safer. Right now, children can't safely ride their bikes or play on the street because of increased traffic. The air quality is terrible because of all the cars driving up and down in search of a spot. And the risk to our watershed from all the hikers crossing our water source needs to be vastly reduced."


The resident cites the Drinking Water Quality 2021 Report and the 2021 Community Wildfire Protection Plan, as well as the 2022 Drinking Water Quality Report, (currently found on page 149 of the November 7 Council agenda). She says that residents who have read these reports will recognize that at the very time when fire and contamination risk is increasing, thousands of additional people are flocking to the watershed. She notes that the reports indicate that daily water testing is not completed on weekends or long weekends, when hiking numbers are often at their highest.


“Added to that is the fact that our water treatment system is not ideal, as we are still operating under a ‘Multibarrier System and Filtration Exemption’ permit, authorized by the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) authority,” she adds. As reported earlier this year in The Watershed, VCH could require Lions Bay to install filtration in the future, at considerable cost to the community.


The Village Infrastructure Master Plan-2021 Year-End Status Summary  indicates an outstanding issue continues to be a source water protection plan for both watersheds. Routing people around the watershed would help to attain that goal for the community. Encouraging the use of single use disposable travel toilets, as implemented in Squamish, could eliminate the need for further toilet facilities, which would be costly to put in and maintain. A pack-it-in, pack-it-out approach that can be advocated through appropriate signage is a technique already in use.


Residents interested in assisting the above parking initiative can send an email to: lbparkingvolunteers@gmail.com


"Please reach out – we'd love to talk to you about it," the resident says. "Our goal is to get this in place before the start of the next hiking season. We want to see everyone get on board, because this is a win/win situation for both the village and the hiking community." 

 

Plan for rerouting of existing Tunnel Bluffs trail

Have thoughts to share? Leave a comment below or email The Watershed at editor@lionsbaywatershed.ca

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I'm wondering if the mayor has taken a role in promoting this great citizen initiative.?


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Fabulous article! Teresa and Hans have put forth ways to continue welcoming hikers, addresses the parking, traffic, safety for residents & hikers, and protecting the Village’s watershed. This is not a NIMBY situation as Teresa points out. Thank you for the time and planning you have put into this initiative. We are fully in support of it and hope that other residents will also be.


Thank you Karen for including this article for everyone to review and be able to understand all the issues. The inclusion of all the various associated Village reports makes it easy to read about the important aspects that face our Village that are often taken for granted.

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What an amazingly well-thought-out initiative by the Branvolds, and so clearly explained in the Watershed. We are lucky to have such clear-headed talent in the village!!!

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Thanks Branvolds. Would love to see the gravel lot used for this.

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Thank you for another great article. Theresa and Hans this is a well thought out initiative that addresses not just parking but the larger issue of safety (fire, traffic, water) . It is a win-win for both hikers and residents! Can't wait to hear more about it. Thank you.

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