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Lions Bay closes access to local hiking trails over wildfire concerns

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LIONS BAY, B.C. -

Caution tape surrounds the parking lot outside the trailhead to Tunnel Bluffs Friday morning.

The mayor and council for the Village of Lions Bay voted to close the access points to all local hiking trails Thursday afternoon, citing wildfire concerns.

“The risk right now is just simply not worth it for that community, the residents and the visitors,” Acting Mayor Jamie Cunliffe told CTV News.

Given the proximity to homes in the area, Cunliffe said a fire along the trails could quickly threaten private property in the community.

“It would happen to be, you know, a few hundred meters from people's homes,” she explained.

Cunliffe said unlike other municipalities, Lions Bay relies on its own watershed as a water source – and due to a shortage, the village is on the cusp of introducing even stricter water restrictions.

“So having to use that valuable resource to put out a fire is going to be very detrimental to the community,” she said, adding that a fire in the watershed would be “devastating.”

The acting mayor said there have been a handful of fires in and around the village, all believed to be human-caused, and officials are doing all they can to mitigate the risk.

COMMUNITY NOT SHUNNING OUTSIDERS, MAYOR SAYS

During the height of the pandemic, parking was severely limited to the beaches in Lions Bay, leaving many visitors feeling like the village was intentionally keeping them out. 

But Cunliffe said that is not what’s happening here.

“The objective here is not to cut off public access,” she said.

Some village residents told CTV News they are skeptical because they have also been asking for permits to trim trees to mitigate the fire risk, but those have all been denied.

The acting mayor reiterated the decision is not a political one, but a safety measure.

“It's 100 per cent about fire safety. And when it comes to tree trimming, we do have a permitting system and during songbird nesting season we do not allow trimming on public trees,” she said.

Cunliffe said the closure of trail access is only temporary and they will continue to monitor the situation to see when they can be reopened to the public. 

Correction

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the acting mayor's surname. It is Cunliffe.

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