The company that owns Cypress Mountain Resort is suing the province to gain control over a stretch of road on the mountain and allow for pay parking at the mountain’s cross-country ski area.
Cypress Bowl Recreations Limited Partnership has filed a petition in B.C. Supreme Court that seeks to “correct two issues of misinterpretation” with respect to a 300-metre section of the Hollyburn Access Road, which branches off from Cypress Bowl Road and leads to the Nordic area.
At issue is whether Cypress can charge visitors for parking on Hollyburn Access Road at Parking Lot 4, a matter that’s come up in recent years as growing numbers of visitors have overwhelmed the available parking.
The 24-page court petition lays out the somewhat arcane history of the park, the resort and the shifting boundaries between them.
Cypress Provincial Park was established by NDP Premier Dave Barrett through an order in council in 1975, although the boundaries of the park have shifted at least five times between then and 2008.
The province operated the ski area at the site until 1984, when Social Credit Premier Bill Bennett sought bids from the private sector to own, operate and further develop the site. Cypress Bowl Recreations Limited Partnership was the winning bidder, and Cypress Mountain Resort signed a Park Use Permit with the province.
That permit has been amended 15 times between 1985 and 2018, with responsibilities for snow clearing shifting from the province to the resort and back in different areas, court documents show.
A 1997 agreement between Cypress and the province excluded the Nordic area and the road leading to it from the controlled recreation area, but it explicitly stated that it would be transferred back for Cypress to plow and maintain once more parking areas had been opened up closer to the resort. That was completed in 1999, the petition states, but through a “mutual mistake” of the two parties, the parks permit and map were never updated.
“Cypress Bowl Recreations had been operating on the basis as if the entire Hollyburn Access Road, from its intersection with Cypress Bowl Road through to the end of the Nordic area parking lots was within the controlled recreation area and that the documentation simply had not yet been completed confirming the intent of the 1997 amendment,” the court documents state.
The oversight in updating the new map was likely due to staff turnover and the long period of time since the agreement was struck, lawyers for Cypress speculate in the petition.
In more recent years though, the number of visitors coming to the park has increased dramatically, “which has created issues regarding insufficient parking,” the petition states.
“Cypress Bowl Recreations has attempted to apply various solutions to the parking and visitor management issues at Cypress Mountain Resort with BC Parks, however, there is not enough capacity for the unmanaged growth of activities outside of the controlled recreation area. BC Parks has been unwilling to offer solutions to the issue of insufficient parking available for the controlled recreation area and Cypress Park generally,” the petition states.
The congestion at the top on busy days is a public safety issue, Cypress notes, as it limits the ability for emergency vehicles and search and rescue personnel to bypass traffic and arrive where they are needed in a timely way.
In December 2020, Cypress installed a parking pay station and signs informing visitors that payment was required to park along the Hollyburn Access Road and in the Hollyburn Parking Lot.
Soon after though, BC Parks “unilaterally” removed the sign and stated their position that the area was not within the boundaries of the park or the controlled recreation area and therefor was within the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure. Staff from that ministry, however, asserted to Cypress that the land was under BC Parks jurisdiction, the court documents say.
“Clearly, the positions of BC Parks and MOTI, two separate ministries of the Government of British Columbia, are untenable,” the petition states. “Cypress Bowl Recreations would like to ensure that, in light of increasing visitation to Cypress Mountain Resort, parking can be properly managed within the controlled recreation area, including along the entire Hollyburn Access Road.”
Cypress is asking the court for a declaration that the road leading to the Nordic Area is within the boundaries of the park, as established in February 1992, and for the map to be redrawn accordingly.
Neither the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure nor the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, which operates BC Parks, have filed a response to the petition. The Ministry of Environment declined to comment while the matter was before the courts.
Lawyers for Cypress Recreations have sought two days in November to have their petition heard by a B.C. Supreme Court judge.