Tourism Powell River throws down a challenge to BC Parks over the mess at Inland Lake: Bike the Trail with Us

Tourism Powell River is taking the lead in lobbying BC Parks for cleaning up Inland Lake’s theoretically-accessible 13-kolimetre trail. In dueling letters this fall, BC Parks claimed the trail is largely still wheelchair accessible and is maintained to “functional, safe, clean and inviting standards,” whereas Tourism Powell River wrote back that the trail is none of those things.

The trail at Inland Lake was built in the mid-1980s, as a legacy project during an era in BC when disability rights, accessibility and inclusion were centre-stage. At the time it was built, the amenity included wheelchair-accessible camping huts and fishing piers. Since then, although there has been some maintenance, the trail and infrastructure has deteriorated. The bridge north of the campground has fallen into the slough.

On September 26, in response to an initial letter from Tourism Powell River complaining about the state of the park, Jim Standen wrote that “We have made significant improvements very recently.” Jim is the Assistant Deputy Minister to the Ministry of the Environment, which is responsible for BC Parks. He noted that most of the trail is still wheelchair accessible.

“BC Parks is actively working on a replacement of the closed pedestrian bridge,” he wrote, “we anticipate completing the replacement by the end of 2024.”

“...although the trail’s current condition is less than ideal, we have made significant improvements very recently.”

“Additionally, BC Parks, in coordination with its Park Operator, conducts annual Wildlife/Danger tree assessments … if potentially hazardous trees were overlooked during the recent assessment, we are willing to re-assess them when brought to our attention.”

On October 1, Tourism Powell River’s executive director Tracey Ellis cycled around the trail. She photographed danger trees and large sections of the trail that appear to be re-wilding.

On October 11, Tourism Powell River president Jock McLauchlan wrote back to BC Parks, inviting the deputy minister to e-bike around the park with the staff and board, and see for himself the state of the trail. He attached Tracey’s photographs.

“The photos highlight previously-mentioned hazards. However they also bring to light several new hazards that have recently emerged,” he wrote.

“There are numerous trees that pose a severe danger as they continue to hang over the trail, and some of them have, indeed, recently fallen onto it.”

Later Jock noted that “regrettably, none of the sections along the trail are currently wheelchair accessible. Additionally, and contrary to the claims made in your letter, the trail has not witnessed any substantial improvements ‘very recently.’ In fact, the trail has significantly deteriorated over a short period of time.”

“Given the apparent misinformation present within BC Parks… we would like to invite you or your representative to see for yourself current conditions on a bike ride around the lake… to witness firsthand the deplorable state of the park, road access and trail. We look forward to hearing from you.”

Pieta Woolley, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, qathet Living