Atmospheric river events’ impacts on parks: a 2023 update
Last spring, we shared details about parks that were impacted by extreme weather and flooding in 2021.
Parks are still dealing with lasting impacts
We wanted to take this opportunity to update the status of some of the parks that were initially damaged in 2021. The atmospheric river events still have lasting impacts. Although access to major highways and other prioritized infrastructure has been re-established, many private and government agencies including BC Parks are still working to rebuild impacted areas.
We recognize these extreme weather events could happen more frequently. Therefore, we are taking the time to build back in a way that gives infrastructure a better chance of withstanding more extreme conditions. This involves engaging with experts and more in-depth planning efforts. This all takes time.
Progress since Spring 2022
Last spring, we prioritized work on highly impacted parks and protected areas to re-establish access to as many camping and day use opportunities as possible for summer 2022 (including Cultus Lake, Sasquatch, and Manning Parks). Since then, we’ve completed full technical damage assessments on all Lower Mainland parks that were impacted. We are in the process of receiving repair options reports from engineers and will use these to build infrastructure that’s more resilient during extreme weather.
Park by park updates
At Coquihalla Canyon (Othello Tunnels) Park, there was significant damage to local access roads, park trails, tunnels and bridges. Due to the extensive damage, we have been taking a phased, multi-year approach to assess the impacts. We have received an extensive engineering report that has identified approximately 30 unique sites that require repairs. Although major debris has been cleaned out of the tunnels, major structures on bridges and tunnel portals have been undermined and are unsafe for public access.
Careful planning and design will be required to rebuild infrastructure in a climate resilient way, as is being done with BC Parks’ work to rebuild the Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Park. Given this work requires significant time and effort, a multi-year process is anticipated, and the park will remain closed in 2023.
At Cultus Lake Park, we have identified 24 different sites to repair and replace infrastructure. This includes trail work and culvert replacements to return the park to pre-storm conditions and protect it during extreme weather.
At Manning Park, there was the Garrison Lake fire in 2021, then the atmospheric river events in fall 2021, and another fire – Heather Lake fire – in summer 2022. Needless to say, the park has had its share of extreme weather during the last couple years.
Last Spring, staff and contractors worked to ensure frontcountry camping opportunities were fixed and ready to open for the summer. And once the snow melted, staff were able to assess the rest of the damage in the park.
During the atmospheric river event, the Skagit River changed course near the Sumalo Grove Day Use Area. As a result, the river no longer flows under the footbridge that used to connect Manning Park to Skagit Valley Park. Next steps (once the snow has melted) are to use LiDAR to map this area, as well as the area around the damaged bridge on the Monument 83 trail, to determine if it makes sense to replace both of these bridges, and if so, where. This is the next step towards reopening these two popular trails.
At Nahatlatch Park, the park is now partially accessible. A temporary bridge has been installed at the Kookipi creek washout that resulted from the 2021 atmospheric river event. Work to repair the Nahatlatch Forest Service Road is ongoing and not expected to be completed this year, but the road is currently accessible up to the 21km mark (which is partially in the park).
At Skagit Valley Park, the access road is still being repaired by Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) – it was impacted by several significant washouts. You can follow along on the road rebuild work here. The good news here is no damage was found at Ross Lake Campground, so once road repairs are completed we will be able to reopen this campground. Silver Tip Campground, on the other hand, suffered significant damage, losing several campsites and a portion of the access road along the Skagit River. Several streams and riverside trails within the park had significant damage and washed out bridges, including the Chittenden Meadows suspension bridge.
Next steps for this park (in addition to MOTI’s access road work) are to complete engineering and technical designs, apply for permits and complete environmental and archeological assessments for areas that need repair. These are all necessary steps before construction can start – and this can take time.
At Sasquatch Park, we are waiting for an engineering report, but anticipate work here to protect the main access road from future extreme weather events.
We have some work ahead of us…
It will be a number of years before we can fully restore all of these parks to their previous conditions. The amount of work to assess, plan, and obtain necessary permits and assessments takes time, and we want to ensure we are rebuilding these areas with the best chances of withstanding more extreme weather.
We know that access to these parks is important to you, and we’re grateful for your patience as we continue to put the work in to repair and reopen these popular areas.