Editorial: Putting out the tourism fire?

Last weekend, a firestorm erupted on The Chief’s Facebook page over our monthly trail column.
The column was about hiking to Levette Lake, a popular area that includes a provincial recreation site.
Though clearly not a ‘secret’ spot — it is included in guidebooks sold locally and a quick Google search finds it on dozens of sites — numerous posters blamed the column for the influx of tourists to the area and for their bad behavior. Someone even burned a copy of our paper in protest.

Obviously, this is insane — and a fire hazard.

Squamish is full of organizations that cater to and draw backcountry tourists to the area of the lake, including local adventure and tour companies and the like.
Sporting events draw thousands to Squamish trails and our town’s slogan is “hardwired for adventure!”

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The gondola alone draws hundreds of thousands into the backcountry.
If the angry posters had taken the time to read the trail column (our analytics show more people commented than clicked), they would have noticed it promoted safe and responsible hiking.
The idea behind these columns has always been to promote responsible use of our trails. Hikers and adventurers are already coming to our backcountry; the goal is to guide them so they stick to the trails and know what to expect.
Though easy to dismiss because so extreme, these angry posters do point to something real that shouldn’t be ignored.
Many Squamish residents have had enough of the influx of people into ‘their’ town.

And we get it.

These spots are in our backyard too and we feel just as possessive over them — a sentiment likely shared by many First Nations who have lived here since time immemorial and have watched a steady influx of non-natives to these spots.
But here’s the problem. We are a tourist community. Many local businesses and events cater to outdoor adventure.  New developments and cafes are filled with tourists and those who moved here because they bought what Squamish is currently selling — an outdoor lifestyle.
Most of us make a living indirectly, or directly, from local tourism or from the  people who have recently moved here.
So, if as a community, we don’t want outdoor adventure to be our calling card, then we need to get to work making us something else.
Not publishing a trail column isn’t going to put out the fire of tourists making their way to Levette Lake or anywhere else.

Wouldn’t it make more sense to lobby for more coalitions like the recently launched Squamish Valley Task Force, which works to enforce responsible behaviour by campers and hikers? And to push for more government-funded conservation officers and park rangers so we can enforce the rules that already exist in our backcountry?  
We think so.

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