British Columbia

'Driver anarchy and mass crowds': Why Joffre Lakes remains a grey area for traffic enforcement

An outdoor enthusiast from Vancouver's North Shore became so outraged over illegally parked vehicles near Joffre Lakes Provincial Park northeast of Pemberton that he took matters into his own hands.

'I experienced what I can only describe as driver anarchy and mass crowds,' writes RCMP officer

On a busy summer day, Highway 99 outside Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, about 180 km northeast of Vancouver, is lined with vehicles. (Submitted/Steve Jones)

An outdoor enthusiast from Vancouver's North Shore became so outraged over illegally parked vehicles outside Joffre Lakes Provincial Park that he took matters into his own hands.

Steve Jones filed a freedom of information request about parking enforcement around the Joffre Lakes trail which has had an explosion in popularity in recent years.

"It's been getting busier and busier and busier, and part of it is that they made some upgrades to the trail so that more people can access it," said Steve Jones.

"But if we're not proactive about making investments and ensuring that the experience for visitors is positive I think that we're going to start to lose our reputation."

Steve Jones got so frustrated with the state of Joffre Lakes north of Whistler that he filed a freedom of information request (CBC/Harold Dupuis)

Parking laws unenforced as jurisdictions argue

The documents he got back revealed Pemberton RCMP can't ticket a vehicle without the driver being present. So even though vehicles are parked in front of "no parking" signs, police can't do anything about it.

RCMP didn't return CBC's request for an interview. But in the documents, Cpl. Mike Hamilton emailed the Mainroad Group, a road maintenance contractor, urging it to put safety measures in place along the highway. 

He wrote about a failed attempt to educate the public about parking rules on Highway 99.

"After approximately 2-3 hours I was forced to completely abandon this endeavour," he said. "I experienced what I can only describe as driver anarchy and mass crowds. I was nearly struck head-on by an inattentive motorist."

In a statement, a spokesperson with the Squamish-Lillooet Regional District said, "Provincial highways, such as Highway 99 near Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, are within the jurisdiction of the provincial government. As a regional district, the SLRD does not have the authority to implement a bylaw that would have jurisdiction over a provincial highway."

However, a spokesperson with the provincial government said it is the responsibility of the district. 

"Currently, the SLRD does not have a bylaw preventing parking along the highway at this location. We have contacted them to inquire about such a bylaw, but the SLRD would need to respond re: any progress on this," the spokesperson said.

The province is expected to provide further clarity on the issue next week.

Lake worth showing off

The brilliant turquoise blue of Joffre Lakes is perfect backdrop for photos and now a social media darling. Just kilometres away from the natural beauty is the crush of vehicles along Highway 99.

A log that sticks into the middle lake on the trail is a wildly popular photo spot. Many attribute the increased traffic at Joffre Lakes to its Instagram fame. (Shutterstock / karamysh)

Jones says the social media fame has come at a price, "I think Instagram has given us a very good reputation for the beauty on the front end, but we're not proactive about making investments and ensuring that the experience for visitors is positive."

The provincial park — about 45 minutes north of Whistler, B.C. — has become one of the South Coast's most popular hikes, leaving B.C. Parks scrambling to manage concerns about overcrowding and environmental preservation.

In 2018, B.C. Parks made the decision to ban dogs from the trail because the animals have "led to issues with visitor experience, public health concerns and conservation efforts," according to a news release from 2018.

Outhouses also a concern

Jones says another issue that came up in the documents is a lack of bathroom facilities. "The line for the outhouses is so long, people can't humanly hold it in, and they're just going to the washroom in the parking lot. It's just disgusting that this is happening."

He hopes the province will fund its parks adequately so that social media posts don't begin to show B.C.'s packed parking areas rather than its natural beauty.

With files from Yvette Brend


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