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Editorial: The province must step in to keep public land open

Province has a role to play in making sure popular outdoor areas remain open
The Village of Lions Bay closed several popular trailheads in response to wildfire risk in August, 2023. | Matt Blair

The recent decision by the Village of Lions Bay to close popular trailheads on municipal land was the wrong tack to take, but we understand some of the concern that prompted it.

The wildfires that have erupted in the province this summer with unprecedented ferocity are frightening, particularly for communities that back onto forests. There is a disconnect, however, between fears being stoked in the community and real risks presented by hikers.

No trail closure was recommended by anyone with an expert understanding of wildfire risk. Instead, they point to the need to thin and space treed areas on both public and private land.

Similar trails on the North Shore frequented by visitors from around the Lower Mainland, including those that connect to Lions Bay trails, remain open. Fire departments here have taken the position that the more “eyes in the forest,” the better. Some hikers have called out Lions Bay’s NIMBY attitude in blaming hikers for risks they don’t present.

Of course, Lions Bay isn’t the only area where access to public areas has been closed on what have felt, rightly or wrongly, like not-entirely-fulsome reasons. Quarry Rock in Deep Cove only recently re-opened after dubiously being closed for “COVID,” “traffic management” and “repairs” from storms in 2021.

Public access to wilderness areas is an important value. The province must step up and take a bigger role in facilitating that, rather than leaving such decisions to local authorities.