Unhappy trails: Hikers harassed by new Buntzen parking reservation system

Starting June 27, visitors can sign up for a morning or afternoon slot — not enough time to do many of the park’s longer hikes.

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Hikers in Riti Chrea’s Saturday morning hiking group may need to pick up the pace if they don’t want to run into a new parking reservation system at Lake Buntzen.

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Chrea is one of many hikers who fear the system, which will allow visitors to book a morning or afternoon timeslot from June 27, will make it impossible to do some of the popular hikes that start near the reservoir BC Hydro, the longest of which takes 10 to 12 hours according to the Crown corporation trail guide.

“It looks like someone hasn’t thought about that,” he said.

The parking reservation pilot project, announced Wednesday, was cheered by local politicians after several years of traffic chaos in the Anmore area.

Buntzen Lake isn’t the only recreation area in British Columbia facing excess demand. Problems with illegal parking, overcrowding, environmental damage and emergency access have led BC Parks to institute a day pass system at Joffre Lakes, Garibaldi, Golden Ears, Mt. Robson and Stawamus Chief Provincial Parks last summer. Other popular locations, including several regional parks operated by Metro Vancouver, close when their parking lots are full.

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But that can lead to another set of problems, some people say.

“It’s absolutely crazy in the summer,” said Port Moody resident Jeff McLellan.

Cars will line up outside the Buntzen Lake gate or idle down side streets, “pulling” it toward the park’s entrance when it opens in the morning, he said. Signs indicating when the park is full for the day don’t seem to deter crowds. The park has become inaccessible to anyone without the ability to fight for a place.

“Anmore will not allow anyone to park on the streets and drive in,” Lana Love Mauro said. “They tow them all. Old grannies and people with strollers come out of Buntzen to find their cars are missing.

McLellan said the new parking plan isn’t perfect, but “hopefully people will give it a chance.” Something is better than nothing.”

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Port Moody resident Riti Chrea thinks the new parking reservation system announced for Lake Buntzen in Anmore will prevent hikers from enjoying longer trails.  Chrea is pictured in the Buntzen Lake parking lot on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG)
Port Moody resident Riti Chrea thinks the new parking reservation system announced for Lake Buntzen in Anmore will prevent hikers from enjoying longer trails. Chrea is pictured in the Buntzen Lake parking lot on Thursday, May 5, 2022. (Photo by Jason Payne/ PNG) Photo by Jason Payne /PNG

BC Hydro spokesman Kyle Donaldson said the utility has heard the concerns of Buntzen Lake hikers and is “exploring adding a day pass as a booking option.” As this is a pilot program, changes could also be made depending on what happens this summer, he said.

Hiker Scott Simpson suggested BC Hydro create specific parking for hikers to maintain access to longer trails like the 25-kilometre Dilly Dally Loop.

“Why didn’t they consult with the hiking community before announcing this?” He asked.

Jay MacArthur, chair of the BC Federation of Mountain Clubs Trails Committee, said BC Hydro’s plan appears to be making a “bad situation” worse. Although the provincial day pass program also has flaws, it allows hikers to go on a long hike. “It’s a necessary evil on the weekend.”

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MacArthur said BC Parks should also consider other ways to manage crowds, such as expanding recreation areas, building new trails and promoting less crowded options.

In a statement, BC Parks said it was still determining the details and timing of its pass plan for the upcoming season.

“While new to BC Parks, actively managing day-use numbers is common in other park systems where demand exceeds capacity,” the statement said. “Although the majestic parks of British Columbia’s Lower Mainland are vast, the vast majority of public use is on developed trails, at backcountry camping facilities and established trailheads ( and) parking lots. These facilities all have a limited capacity.

The release notes that there are a “limited number of locations where we can build new gear.”

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  1. FILE PHOTO of people enjoying a sunny day at Lake Buntzen.

    Driving to Buntzen Lake? You will soon have to reserve a parking space

  2. A parking sign along Bedwell Bay Road in Port Moody near Belcarra on July 20.

    COVID-19: How are local BC parks coping with crazy crowds? Not so good

  3. Disgruntled trails, crowded parks, crowded campgrounds: Lower Mainland parks are overrun

  4. Chilliwack resident Trevor Carne sits on a picnic table surrounded by flood debris at Maple Bay Campground at Cultus Lake.

    “The whole landscape has changed” – Parks, trails and recreation sites badly damaged by BC storms

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