It was a tough weekend for emergency responders at Cultus Lake.
With beachgoers flocking to the area, and parking where they shouldn’t, firefighters had a terrible time getting to calls. It’s an annual problem along the Columbia Valley Highway, and this time it was caught on video. Two Cultus Lake Fire Department engines creep along the route, sirens blaring, trying to thread the needle between traffic on one side and parked cars on the other.
“People are worried and frustrated and it’s time for a solution,” said local resident Taryn Dixon. “And it may be time for a tough solution.”
The past few years, B.C.’s Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure (MOTI) has placed pylons along the roadway to discourage visitors from parking along the side. Dixon said there are fewer of them this year, and they haven’t been much of a deterrent.
“They get pushed over the edge or tossed in the lake,” she noted. “I fished a bunch of them out (of the lake) yesterday morning. People park well into the travel lane, and then there’s nowhere to walk, so people are walking in the travel lane. They stand in the middle of the road and talk to someone in a vehicle when others are trying to get by.
“People are trying to drive as carefully as possible, but you never know when a door is going to fling open or someone’s going to bring their kids out onto the road.”
Dixon is well connected as the Fraser Valley Regional District’s director for Electoral Area H, and she has been sounding the alarm about this for years. She has made Chilliwack-Kent MLA Kelli Paddon aware of it, and has asked the RCMP about increasing ticketing and enforcement.
“The real concern is nothing has changed, beyond more and more people coming to Cultus Lake on hot days,” Dixon said. “For eight years I’ve been going to the Union of B.C. Municipalities and the province, and we’re still in the same place.”
Dixon said RCMP is the only entity with the authority to ticket or tow, and she acknowledged they have to make decisions on where to deploy resources on busy summer days. But Dixon suggested people who park illegally do so knowing there’s no enforcement.
“In addition to the pylons, there are sign-boards asking people to respect no-parking zones, warning them towing is in effect and telling them emergency vehicles need access, but those are obviously ignored,” she observed. “The public believes they can park wherever they want because nothing will happen, and I can see why they think that.”
To allow the FVRD to ticket and tow would require changes to provincial legislation, and Dixon said that would be “a process.”
She’s suggested allowing B.C. Parks staff to ticket and tow, and had that idea shot down.
She’s suggested limiting the number of visitors allowed into the park using a day pass system, but that hasn’t gone anywhere.
“When the lots are full in the B.C. Parks area, is there a way to close the road to locals only?” Dixon mused. “When those lots are full, it means there are no legal parking spaces. If the goal is to keep people from parking on the side of the road, limiting the number of people coming up is a way to do that.”
There’s even been talk of a shuttle bringing people into Cultus Lake Provincial Park, to keep cars out.
There have been lots of ideas, Dixon said, but little action.
“For people living around the lake, this is our highway, our only road in and out of our area, and on any main road there’s no way this should be acceptable,” Dixon said. “We’re asking that it be protected and kept safe for people who live here, but also for guests, and emergency personnel who struggle to get where they need to go.
“This needs to be addressed before something tragic happens.”