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Letter: Mount Seymour Provincial Park passes unpopular, unsafe and unsustainable

North Vancouver adventurer poses alternative ideas
Mount Seymour snowshoe
A snowshoer enjoys a sunset hike on Mount Seymour, December 2017.

Dear Editor:

As a resident of North Vancouver, an outdoors enthusiast, and a father, I’m writing to express my displeasure with the NDP government’s unpopular, unsafe and unsustainable policy decision to require that Mount Seymour Park users get a four-hour pass in advance of visiting.

While this may be a provincial park, it’s also a backyard for North Shore residents. Asking us to get in line for scarce passes to use neighbouring parks means that we will more often have to travel up the Sea to Sky Highway, out to the Fraser Valley or even to northern Washington to recreate. This adds to congestion, and is contrary to the province’s stated goal of GHG reduction.

Over the past 30 years I’ve been a guide, a ski patroller and instructor, a search and rescue member and an emergency management professional. Restricting backcountry users of a vast space like the North Shore mountains to a four hour daytime window will force them to either use the park at night in the dark, rush their trip, use alternate areas. which are less easily patrolled and accessed, or break the rules and just stay longer. You are not just inconveniencing but jeopardizing the health and safety of backcountry users by these restrictions, and draining already scarce search and rescue resources.

As a father of young children who wants to introduce them to the backcountry, Seymour is the most accessible place to do so. However, the realities of young children and our climate mean that not every day is suitable for bringing children into wilderness areas, which is often not known until that day arrives. Your policy means that I will be regularly spending my time and your resources to book passes every Thursday which we may not use, and many others I know on the North Shore are doing the same. This is the only option to allow us to make a day-of decision to visit the park, but hardly a sustainable model since those spots will be blocked until we cancel when it’s already too late for most other users to take them.

As many media outlets have pointed out, including our own North Shore News, the true solution is to spend a small fraction of the billions of dollars your government earns from exploiting our natural resources to meaningfully expand access and facilities in a variety of areas near urban centers; instead of restricting use at the ones we have now. Day use is up and will stay up, this is good news for public health, but it must be adequately resourced.

In the meantime, if you want a more viable and responsive interim day use policy for high traffic parks in winter and summer - one that presents the optic of being progressive instead of reactive - I’d suggest four changes:

- Reserve one third of passes at designated parks for local residents (within 10-15km), merely requiring the entry of a Driver’s License number in addition to existing email at registration

- Allow users to alternatively purchase both a morning and afternoon pass for the same day for a modest fee i.e. $10

- Use those revenues to provide shuttle bus service, providing families, those without cars and others who could not obtain an advance pass with a means of accessing our wilderness spaces in a more carbon friendly manner.

Ryan Benson
North Vancouver

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