Recreation and tourism growth in the Sea to Sky region has been accelerating since the improvement of the Sea to Sky Highway and the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. The Sea to Sky Highway has over 3 million travellers per year, with most visitors seeking a nature-based recreation experience. This increase in tourism is reflected in the exponential increase in attendance at many provincial parks in the region, particularly Joffre Lakes Park.
In 2018, 183,000 people visited the park; this represents a 168% increase in park attendance since 2010. As a result of this growth, First Nations, the regional district, municipalities, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and the public have all raised concerns regarding sustainable recreation and tourism and have expressed concerns for public safety along the highway near Joffre Lakes Park.
In April 2019, BC Parks launched a public online survey to solicit input on measures to improve public safety and management of the park. The survey was available on the BC Parks website and promoted through social media and other channels.
April 1 to April 30, 2019
- 2,568 responses were received
Survey respondents were primarily:
- from the Lower Mainland,
- between the ages of 25 and 34, and
- occasional visitors to the park.
When asked what their main motivations were for visiting Joffre Lakes, the top three responses from respondents were to seek a nature experience, for the scenic view, and for physical activity.
Level of outdoor experience varied from intermediate to expert, with most respondents reporting they spent between four and seven hours in the park per trip, and travelled Third Lake.
Word-of-mouth was the primary way that respondents learned of the park, with most citing the BC Parks website as the best way to provide information about the park.
Themes of safety and sustainable recreation use were clearly important to respondents. A variety of suggestions were provided to improve pedestrian safety, parking capacity, and park management. The majority of respondents were willing to pay a day-use fee provided it improved park management and facilities. Introducing a cap on visitation or a permit system as a tool to reduce crowding and congestion on the trail was supported by a significant amount of respondents.
Input leads to action:
The Visitor Use Management Action Plan was released on June 25, 2019. The plan focuses on priority actions for 2019 with a longer-term Visitor Use Management Strategy to be developed and released in 2020. Input received from the public survey and key stakeholders helped inform the action plan and will also be considered when developing the longer-term strategy.
BC Parks is also conducting trailhead surveys in both winter and summer 2019 at the Joffre Lakes Park trailhead to ensure we are gathering information from park users who may not have filled out the online survey.