British Columbia

'Driver anarchy and mass crowds' at Joffre Lakes triggered RCMP warning letter

A letter sent by local RCMP in August describes "driver anarchy and mass crowds" at Joffre Lakes parking lot and calls for a long-term solution before someone is hurt.

Pemberton RCMP letter says there aren't enough resources to tow illegally parked cars

A letter from the RCMP in Pemberton says it receives numerous calls a day reporting unsafe driving conditions on Highway 99 near Joffre Lakes. (Echo Culture/YouTube)

Pemberton RCMP warned B.C. Parks of "driver anarchy and mass crowds" at Joffre Lakes parking lot ahead of the Labour Day long weekend and worried that without a long-term solution, someone could be hurt.

That's how RCMP Cpl. Mike Hamilton described the situation In a letter sent to B.C. Parks in August, after being nearly "struck head-on by an inattentive motorist" while monitoring the area.

Overcrowding has become an increasing concern at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park over the past several years.

B.C. Parks has implemented various strategies to try to limit the impact on the environment, including banning dogs from the trails in May 2018, and social media campaigns to inform people that parking on the highway is illegal.

In 2017, the province recorded that almost 4,000 campers and 160,000 day-use visitors made use of the park.

Cpl. Hamilton's letter noted that traffic is becoming increasingly dangerous on Highway 99 due to the volume of motorists and their carelessness in adhering to road safety rules.

"I witnessed hikers standing and sitting in the middle of the highway taking photos, motorists stopped in the middle of the highway waiting for overflowing and unsafe parking lots to be vacated, and a complete disregard for anyone else's safety," said the letter dated Aug. 13.

"It's simply too large of a problem to address in a solo-policing effort," said Hamilton who described being met with anger from hikers unhappy at being told the park was no longer accessible.

Tracy Volb made the drive to Joffre from Vancouver a few weeks earlier on the August long weekend and was shocked by the scene in the parking lot when she finished her hike around midday.

"By that time it was insane in the parking lot. There were cars all up and down the shoulder, people were walking on the highway, frustrated drivers looking for a thoroughfare were just going at quite high speeds," she said. "Anything could have happened."

Many attribute the increased traffic at Joffre Lakes to its Instagram fame. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Insufficient towing capacity

Although B.C. Parks made several social media posts ahead of the Labour day weekend threatening to tow offending vehicles, the letter from the RCMP warned in August that the region does not have sufficient tow operators.

"We don't have enough capacity here in Pemberton, our local tow trucks, to be able to manage that volume of cars," agreed Pemberton Mayor Mike Richman.

B.C. Parks indicated in a written statement that no vehicles were towed on Labour Day weekend "thanks to the work of RCMP officers and traffic control personnel."

The agency adds that it is working on longer-term strategies to respond to the high volume of visitors in provincial parks.

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