Tourism Powell River has issued a challenge to BC Parks over the deteriorating state of the Inland Lake trail, a situation that raises significant concerns for the outdoor recreation industry in British Columbia.
The dispute centers around the 13-kilometer trail at Inland Lake, initially built in the mid-1980s as a legacy project. This trail, designed with disability rights and accessibility in mind, included wheelchair-accessible camping huts and fishing piers. However, over the years, the trail and its infrastructure have seen a decline, with a bridge north of the campground collapsing into disrepair.
Tourism Powell River, in its advocacy role, has been vocal in lobbying BC Parks for action. The organization’s efforts intensified following a series of communications this fall. BC Parks, overseen by the Ministry of the Environment, claimed the trail was still largely wheelchair accessible and maintained to “functional, safe, clean and inviting standards.” This statement was made by Jim Standen, the Assistant Deputy Minister to the Ministry of the Environment.
Contrasting sharply with BC Parks’ stance, Tourism Powell River argued that the trail was far from the described condition. In response to the initial letter from Tourism Powell River, Standen noted that “significant improvements” had been made recently. He also mentioned ongoing work to replace a closed pedestrian bridge, with completion expected by the end of 2024.
To substantiate their claims, Tourism Powell River’s Executive Director, Tracey Ellis, undertook a personal inspection of the trail on October 1. Ellis cycled around the trail, documenting through photographs the presence of danger trees and large sections of the trail reverting to wilderness. This evidence painted a starkly different picture from the one portrayed by BC Parks.
In a follow-up letter dated October 11, Jock McLauchlan, president of Tourism Powell River, invited the deputy minister to experience the trail’s condition firsthand. McLauchlan’s invitation was for a bike ride around the lake with the organization’s staff and board. He attached Ellis’s photographs to the letter, highlighting both existing and newly emerged hazards.
McLauchlan’s letter emphasized the severity of the situation, noting numerous trees posing severe danger, some of which had recently fallen onto the trail. He pointed out that, contrary to BC Parks’ claims, none of the trail sections were currently wheelchair accessible. He also refuted the assertion of recent substantial improvements, stating that the trail had significantly deteriorated over a short period.
The ongoing debate between Tourism Powell River and BC Parks underscores a broader issue within British Columbia’s outdoor recreation industry. The state of the Inland Lake trail not only impacts accessibility and safety for visitors but also reflects on the overall health of the province’s outdoor hospitality sector. Campground, glamping, and RV park owners, along with outdoor hospitality operators, rely on well-maintained natural attractions to draw visitors.
This situation at Inland Lake serves as a microcosm of the challenges faced in maintaining and upgrading outdoor recreational facilities in the region. The resolution of this dispute and the subsequent actions taken could set a precedent for how similar situations are handled across British Columbia.
Tourism Powell River’s proactive stance in this matter highlights the importance of local advocacy in ensuring that outdoor recreational spaces meet the needs of all visitors, including those with disabilities. Their efforts also underscore the need for ongoing dialogue and cooperation between government entities and local organizations to maintain the standards of outdoor recreational facilities.
As the situation develops, the outdoor recreation industry in British Columbia watches closely. The outcome of this challenge could have far-reaching implications for the management and maintenance of outdoor recreational spaces across the province, impacting not only the local economy but also the accessibility and enjoyment of these natural resources for all.
Featured map courtesy of Inland Lake.