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Squamish's Smoke Bluffs to become formally dedicated park

Rock climbers have referred to it as a park for many years, but the municipality's formal dedication has not been considered until now.

Squamish's popular Smoke Bluffs is expected to soon have formal park status, following three readings of a set of bylaws by District council.

On Feb. 16, council voted unanimously in favour of these regulations, which are expected to put in protections that would help preserve the area as a park. Adoption of these regulations is expected in the near future.

During deliberations, council noted that while the area has been referred to as a park for many years, it has not had a formal park dedication.

"I am very excited to see this come forward," said Coun. Jenna Stoner.

"I still hear from people out there surprised that the Smoke Bluffs is not a dedicated park, so I think there's a perception in our community that it is a dedicated park, but it actually hasn't been by bylaw."

The park dedication bylaw introduced on Tuesday is intended to preserve the lands as a park permanently.

Staff say with these regulations in place, the District will have no authority or ability to remove the park or park use or to repeal the bylaw without the consent of locals through an electoral process such as a referendum.

However, the regulations will only apply to District-owned land. Several parcels owned by the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. and province can't be dedicated as part of the park until they are transferred to the District.

The District is currently in talks with the federation about the possibility of transferring its lands to the municipality. These lands were acquired by the federation in the 1980s to prevent developers from building in the area. The organization has held them ever since as a means to guarantee climbers' access in the area.

"Some folks are apparently worried that District of Squamish control over this large area that we currently mostly informally know as the Smoke Bluffs could lead to long-term uncertainty for the parklands, and I don't see this situation that way, and I don't understand it that way," said Coun. John French.

"It's exactly the opposite, in my opinion. Once the District of Squamish formally puts all of these lands into park status, it's going to be very difficult to take it out. And I think that's the way that it should be."

French said it was a win for climbers, but also other users such as hikers, runners and dog-walkers.

This is not the only effort the District has made to consolidate the park. Last year, the District bought the Drenka lands right by the Mamquam Blind Channel. This area had previously been host to several climbs, but had been illegal to access because it was private property.