BC MINISTRY OF TRANSPORT LIASON
SAS was highly active in negotiation with the BC Ministry of Transportation during expansion of the 99 in the run-up to the Olympics. Below are two notes summarising controversies from that period. SAS continue to have occasional contact with the MoT over issues like informal parking for cliffs near the 99.
Negotiations re Murrin 2003-2010
The Ministry of Transportation described the Murrin Park canyon to the SAS in 2003 as the biggest single engineering headache on the entire Vancouver to Whistler corridor. A paper presented to MOT in early 2004 by Kevin McLane Highway 99 – The Rockclimbers Perspective, detailed the permanent and irreplaceable losses that would occur at Murrin to all lakeside recreation and high-value crag assets if plans to construct four lanes through the sensitive canyon proceeded. The paper argued that a bypass to the west was both necessary and possible. This provoked an early response from the province that they would look into other ideas. What came forward was the “Olympic Solution” which in effect means no change except during the Olympic period of 17 days in 2010 when a short, temporary, third lane to accommodate Olympic traffic would be added at the pinchpoint between Browning Bluff and Browning Lake. MOT has committed to decommission this third lane immediately post-Olympics, back to the present-day two lanes. This is a requirement that both BC Parks and Squamish First Nation (who have interests in the area) also demanded.
So the post-2010 future of the Murrin area remains as uncertain as it was in 1986 when John Howe and Kevin McLane made a slide presentation to the MOT staff of the day about climbers concerns at widening the road through the canyon. The two lanes will become a high-profile bottleneck on the four lane highway from Vancouver to Squamish, so we can anticipate a high probability of public and political pressure to resolve the “Murrin Problem”. Climbers must “stay on it” to ensure that either a tunnel or a bypass is built. If the province blows two more lanes through the narrow canyon, the entire Murrin area will become overwhelmed by noise and a doubling of traffic volumes (from MOT’s own reports), and the roadside crags and boulders will be lost either to blasting or permanent closure.
Negotiations re Cheakamus Canyon 2003-2010
The Gorge has been the focus of a considerable political effort from the SAS over the last two years as a result of the Highway 99 widening there in 2003–2004. During construction above the Gorge, MOT caused over blasting of many thousands of cubic metres of rock to rain down over the crags, causing a serious and dangerous situation for climbers. The SAS protested at this and pressured MOT for reparations to correct the situation, presenting them with a startling before-and-after dossier of the damage. This resulted in many meetings with senior provincial officials, and it is to MOT’s great credit that they stepped up to their responsibility to correct the situation. They have done an excellent job.
Two years later, the area is now fully open to climbing again, a great new access trail down to the Gorge has been constructed by MOT, and with MOT support the SAS is presently engaged in completing some final re-bolting and trail improvements. There is now also good scope for new routes at Gotham City and the small crags further north along the riverside.