British Columbia

Dogs now banned from B.C.'s Joffre Lakes Provincial Park indefinitely

B.C. Parks announced dogs and domestic pets are being banned from the trail because the animals have "led to issues with visitor experience, public health concerns and conservation efforts."

B.C. Parks says dogs and other pets won't be allowed year-round

Dogs won't be able to hike Joffre Lakes with their owners after B.C. Parks enacts a new ban on domestic pets. The ban is meant to help preserve the wildlife and landscape in the park, north of Pemberton, B.C. (therapynation/Instagram)

UPDATE — May 19, 2018: BC Parks' ban on dogs and other domestic pets came into effect on May 18, 2018.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Hiking the Joffre Lakes trail was part of Julie-Ann Chapman's morning routine, once.

She used to wake up, grab her dog, hike an hour-and-a-half to the top and then head home to Pemberton to start the day.

Chapman doesn't do that anymore, and hasn't in a long time.

"There's no way I'm doing that now. That stopped years ago," said Chapman, who has lived in Pemberton for 15 years.

She said she stopped going to the park because it got too crowded.

Julie-Ann Chapman's dog, Bayou, is 13. Chapman won't be able to bring him to Joffre Lakes after B.C. Parks enacts its ban. (Julie-Ann Chapman)

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 overcrowding and preservation concerns.

This week, B.C. Parks announced dogs and domestic pets are being banned from the trail indefinitely because the animals have "led to issues with visitor experience, public health concerns and conservation efforts."

But dog owners and hikers say the well-intentioned move may have missed the mark.

The Joffre Lakes hike is accessible, straightforward, and beautiful: visitors pass three turquoise lakes on their way to a view of the mountains and Matier Glacier, although the impossibly bright lakes are the main attraction.

Dogs have been banned before, but this year's ban from B.C. Parks is new. It will be permanent and effective year-round.

The ministry posted the news on its official site on Wednesday, although the post was quickly taken down.

A government official said a staffer inadvertently published the announcement ahead of schedule. It was removed because the policy isn't finished yet, but the ministry confirmed the ban will be in place before the summer season.

A statement said the park has seen an increase in dog waste that isn't being cleaned up and is ending up in the water. It said there's also been an uptick in dogs swimming in the lakes, which creates a health risk for those using them for drinking water.

Lastly, the statement said pups have hurt the environment.

"Dogs on and off leash impact wildlife in the park — even the sounds or scents of dogs can cause birds and other animals like pikas to look for different habitat," it said.

The rocks at the upper lake at the end of the Joffre Lakes hike are often packed with people. A round-trip to this point and back down again takes about four hours. (Shutterstock/LeonWang)

"No longer allowing dogs or other domestic animals will help us protect the park, its wildlife, and the people who visit it."

Chapman said Joffre Lakes does have its problems, but pet dogs aren't the chief concern.

"Dogs have been there since day one, but now that it's become way more of a busy place, all of a sudden they're blaming the dogs," she said.

Trail has changed

"It's the amount of people that are going there that's the issue and they're not respecting nature ... so yes, it is a mix of irresponsible dog owners, but it's also responsible mountain people."

Chapman still hikes Joffre Lakes from time to time. Years ago, she said, the trail was filled with "mountain people" who had the right gear and emergency kits.

The spot where a log sticks into the second lake is a popular place to snap photographs. Many attribute the increased traffic at Joffre Lakes to its Instagram fame. (Shutterstock / karamysh)

Now, she said she'll see people in "stilettos and flip-flops" with no water and no gear. She said there's also been an increase in people who let their dogs run where they shouldn't.

"It's really sad to see, actually," she said.

Chapman says the removal of a boulder field made the trail easier to access, opening the floodgates.The boulder field was a part of the trail that was the most challenging. Hikers needed to be physically fit to clamber over it. B.C. Parks removed the field several years ago.

That, coupled with the lakes' popularity on social media, sent the visitor base beyond avid hikers and into the tourist pool.

Chapman said people should be B.C. Parks' concern, not dogs.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rhianna Schmunk is a staff writer for CBC News. She is based in Vancouver with a focus on justice and the courts. You can reach her on Twitter @rhiannaschmunk or by email at rhianna.schmunk@cbc.ca.

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