A long-term plan for Grouse Mountain Regional Park, including the banning of dogs on a popular trail, was unanimously approved by the Metro Vancouver board on Oct. 26.
Upgrading the B.C. Mountaineering Club trail, a more rugged route adjacent to the Grouse Grind, is at the top of the priority list. Banning dogs on the BCMC is also part of the 20-year plan.
After the area officially became a regional park in 2017, Metro Vancouver reached out to stakeholders, local First Nations and the greater public this past summer for ideas and advice on how best to use the 75 hectares of land.
Hikers want a rustic experience on the BCMC – a trail that saw 95,000 visitors from May to September of this year – is what Metro staff learned during the engagement process. By comparison, the Grind attracted 250,000 hikers in the same time period this summer.
“They don’t want (the BCMC) to look exactly like the Grouse Grind,” said Jeff Fitzpatrick, Metro Vancouver regional parks manager for the west area.
As part of a gentle facelift the BCMC – which has been described in online hiking forums as what the Grind looked like before it was developed – is set to be slightly more defined.
Steep sections of the BCMC that have experienced erosion will be reinforced with steps built out of natural materials. It will likely take a few seasons to finish the BCMC upgrades, with work expected to start next spring.
Banning dogs on the BCMC, a proposal supported by the majority of those surveyed, came after looking at environmental impacts and talking to the public, according to Fitzpatrick.
Some hikers take their dogs on the BCMC because they are not allowed on the Grind.
“Off-leash dogs can surprise hikers and expand the width of the trail, and impact the wildlife adjacent to the area,” Fitzpatrick explained.
Metro Vancouver staff will be developing a signage plan that will include information about dogs in the park. Hikers can still walk their friendly companions on a leash along the Baden Powell trail, which cuts along the base of Grouse Mountain Regional Park for about half a kilometre.
As for Mother Nature’s Stairmaster, those who weighed in on the park survey want to see the Grind stay the same.
“On the Grouse Grind what we heard from people is that they were quite happy with the trail in its current condition … and they don’t want to see a lot of changes to the way the trail looks,” said Fitzpatrick.
The plan for the Grind now is to keep hikers out of harm's way through regular maintenance and improved signage but not to change its look or feel. During the winter months, there will also be sporadic openings of the Grind when the conditions are safe.
In the long term, Metro might look at upgrading the trailhead at the base of the Grind and BCMC – to open up the space and make it more “user-friendly” and less congested, explained Fitzpatrick.
Also included in the plan is a new connector trail – about a quarter of the way up – which would take hikers from the Grind over to the BCMC and down to the Baden Powell trail.
If they bit off more than they could chew with the Grind, hikers can switch into a lower gear and head along the Baden Powell. The connector trail also creates a loop for hikers who can access the varying terrains on the markedly different trails.
“Loops are really popular for folks and the benefit of this is it makes the park a bit more accessible to people who are maybe not as fit or as up for that kind of challenging hike,” said Fitzpatrick.
Metro will set aside $250,000 annually, beginning in 2019, for trail maintenance and construction in Grouse Mountain Regional Park, as part of a five-year regional parks' capital budget.
In 2020, there will be $30,000 spent for a detailed design of the park trailhead.