It is no secret to any Sea to Sky local — there’s a lot of trash in the backcountry, and wildlife conflicts seem to have become a regular thing.
At the root of these issues is, of course, us — human misbehaviour.
As locals also know, more people are living and visiting here, which puts pressure on the landscape and wildlife.
This has corridor communities banding together to try and educate folks.
A new marketing campaign is being launched that urges residents and visitors to tread lightly and minimize their social and environmental impact so they “Don’t Love It to Death.”
Starting this month, visitors travelling the Sea to Sky Corridor — North Vancouver and Bowen Island north through Lillooet — new signage will encourage people to behave more responsibly when enjoying the outdoors and the communities.
Signage will be placed in visitor centres, in parks, on trailheads and on beaches, using images of the Sea to Sky region with “thought-provoking” messages reminding residents and visitors to be aware of their impact, and respect the environment using the tagline “Don’t Love it to Death.”
The campaign is an initiative of the Sea to Sky Destination Management Council.
The council was created in early 2020 to implement the Sea to Sky Destination Development Strategy. The council includes community representatives from the Sea to Sky planning area and organizations such as the Indigenous Tourism Association of British Columbia, BC Parks, the Ministry of Jobs, Economic Recovery and Innovation, and the Ministry of Forests. This council is focused on developing a Destination Education Initiative to address some of the region's challenges, such as un-managed camping, a news release states.
The campaign’s webpage www.dontloveittodeath.com includes resources on how people can reduce their footprint by enjoying the outdoors and community assets in a “responsible, sustainable, and legal manner.”
“The “Don’t Love It to Death” awareness campaign is designed to get people to think about their actions and the impact they’re having on the environment, wildlife and the people around them,” said Karen Goodwin, vice president of destination and market development for Tourism Whistler in a news release. “We want to change people’s behaviour by encouraging them to make better travel and recreational decisions that protect and preserve the places we all love.”
The release notes that traffic along the Sea-to-Sky Highway has increased 5% every year since 2006, dramatically increasing litter and other issues.
The release adds that excess litter and garbage topped the list of nine “pain points” identified by approximately 600 Sea to Sky community leaders and residents who responded to two surveys and participated in 12 input sessions on urgent regional issues.
Additional concerns that were raised include environmental and resource degradation, human waste along public trails and in parks, illegal and disrespectful land use such as trespassing and damage to Indigenous cultural sites, transportation issues such as excessive traffic and inadequate parking, crowding and overuse, unprepared hikers and campers resulting in a spike in search and rescue calls, as well as wildlife conflicts due to human negligence, according to the release.
“We live in an enviable region full of opportunity for outdoor recreation, and we care deeply about protecting the natural assets that contribute to the unmatched beauty of our Sea-to-Sky communities,” said Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott. “We sometimes get too focused on our outdoor pursuits that we forget the importance of how to protect nature and respect the needs of other visitors and the local community. We should all be aware of how our behaviour impacts our environment as visitors, and as locals, and I think this message will resonate with us all.”
Some of the human impacts in the region listed in the release include:
- Highway contractors working on the Sea to,Sky Highway had to increase the frequency of litter clean-up from weekly to daily over the past decade, particularly during the busy summer months.
- In March 2022, Divers for Cleaner Lakes and Oceans removed 516 kilos of garbage off Bowen Island in just one day.
- Search and rescue organizations in the region have seen an increase in call-outs.
- In August 2021, a bear was euthanized after it was seen accessing unsecured food in a tent around the Cat Lake Recreation Sites and Lake in the Squamish District.
- On May 27, 2022, the Cat Lake Recreation Sites and Lake was closed for approximately five weeks due to an aggressive bear actively seeking food from campers and entering tents to acquire it.
According to the Sea to Sky Destination Management Council, the budget for the initial phases of the project amounts to approximately $366,000.
The Sea to Sky Destination Management Council will be consulting with communities, partners and government following our evaluation of the launch and first few seasons in the market and then source additional funds as required to continue with this campaign.
Funding for this stage of the program was provided by The Province of British Columbia through the Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program (CERIP).
*Please note, this story has been updated since it was first posted to include budget information.