(File photo)

Some have been left shocked and frustrated this week after they discovered they will no longer have the same free access to hiking and biking trails located on Bear Mountain Resort’s land.

Before Bear Mountain’s owners had an opportunity to release information on a new addition to their ‘Resort Pass’ program — the hiking trails in question — some residents of satellite communities to Bear Mountain learned of a liability waiver and subsequent Resort Pass fee of $45 that the resort will be charging to access their private property.

This new waiver with an attached fee came into effect on June 1st, and some non-Bear Mountain residents are not happy about having the trails they’ve come to know and love taken away from them. 

Trail access

Ryan McCullagh and his wife live nearby and have enjoyed the trails for nearly a decade with their children. McCullagh’s wife was unaware of the fee or waiver on June 1st and was directed to the Bear Mountain Activity Centre to sign the waiver and pay $45 if she would like to use it. 

Unfortunately for the McCullaghs, there is no other accessible alternative trail within walking distance of their home.

“We would be limited to basically just walking the suburban cul-de-sacs,” said Ryan. “I’ve lived in this neighbourhood for eight years now and for that entire time, it’s been a place where people walk their dogs or take their kids in strollers.”

The trails in question are only those that are on Bear Mountain, which is and has always been private property. People can still access Goldstream Provincial Park’s trails, they just have to do so from the park itself, without cutting through Bear Mountain’s golf course trails. 

The public ‘Finlayson Loop’ is highlighted in green. Bear Mountain’s private property includes most of the black dotted trails to the right of Goldstream Provincial Park (All Trails)


The resort’s parent company Ecoasis, who bought the near 1,000 acre development in 2013,  say that this liability waiver is at the behest of their insurance company, who after numerous incidents want to protect Bear Mountain from being liable. 

“It’s all driven from insurance and risk mitigation and it’s not just to save the company,” said Dan Matthews, President and CEO of Ecoasis. “It’s important that the companies are protected because we employ a few hundred people.”

“It’s also for the safety of the people that are utilizing our amenities. You know people have been signing waivers for golf for years now.”

Matthews pointed out that Ecoasis has a unique situation, because they have more land than just the golf courses. 

They have the responsibility of knowing who is in their backyard and protecting the community’s residents and their homes is a priority. He equated the situation to having insurance and not wanting trespassers on a family’s property or a large plot of farm land. 

“It’s no different to a single-family home on a piece of property and people walking through it,” Matthews told Victoria Buzz. “Or a rancher that has 1,000 acres and something happens on his back 40 that he doesn’t know about — he’s liable, whether he likes it or not.”

McCullagh says that he and his neighbours always had pleasant interactions on the trails with other hikers and golfers alike. 

Because of the nature of his interactions with the trail network and how his family utilizes them, McCullagh is questioning why Bear Mountain needs to attach a fee to their liability issue and why they can’t just put up signs that say “use at your own risk”.

Matthews says that having warning signs doesn’t cut it anymore.

“A lot has changed in the insurance business since COVID and signs aren’t enough,” Matthews said. “If Whistler Blackcomb had signs only, and not waivers to recreate, they wouldn’t be in business anymore.”

Matthews told Victoria Buzz there have been many situations where individuals have injured themselves or gotten lost on the resort’s property, which have involved helicopters, paramedics and police intervention. Ecoasis’ insurance and waivers came to the company’s aid on those occasions.

The path network

A local non-profit organization called Nature Trails Society was initially responsible for the creation of some of the trails around the golf course, but have not been involved for some time, according to Ecoasis. 

Matthews says that Nature Trails Society hasn’t been involved in the upkeep or maintenance of the network since 2014. Matthews added that Ecoasis provided $30,000 in seed money for the non-profit to begin operations back when they bought the property the year before ties were cut in the partnership. 

Despite claiming they broke ties in 2014, the Nature Trails Society website says that the non-profit wasn’t even founded until 2015 and their Executive Director, Daniel Cammiade, told Victoria Buzz that they “broke ties with Bear Mountain in 2021 when they publicly announced they were going to charge for trail use.”

Cammiade was unavailable to clarify the timeline of involvement between the two organizations at the time of this article’s publication.

For the past decade, people living in surrounding areas have appreciated the trails and now with free and easy access being taken away from them, McCullagh is raising questions of how the resort’s actions impact its neighbouring communities such as his. 

“I wonder, how much water does it take to keep their courses green during a drought, or what does removing all those trees at the top of the mountain do to our watershed or the soil stability for us communities living in the shadow of Bear Mountain,” McCullugh told Victoria Buzz.

“We live with the decisions of what they do to the green spaces, the animal habitats and the watershed and soil stability and now they can’t allow us the simple pleasure of using a walking trail.”

McCullagh calls the waiver and Resort Pass fee move by Ecoasis “cartoonishly evil” and relates Matthews to a “villain from an 80s movie”, but Matthews insists he is looking out for the residents of the community and that he sympathizes with the neighbourhoods that will have to change their routines.

“I certainly sympathize with that, I really do,” said Matthews. “We all have routines in life right, and nobody wants something taken away from them, but in the same respect they have to understand it’s private property.”

“We’re not asking a lot of people, except to respect that it’s private property.”

Matthews also told Victoria Buzz the enforcement of the new liability waiver protocol and subsequent Resort Pass fee would be done so in an understanding way.

“We recognize that this is a part of people’s routines, that there’s an education process that has to occur,” Matthews said. “That doesn’t happen overnight or with a bit of press.”

Bear Mountain staff such as the golf course marshals will be tasked with informing people using the trails without a Resort Pass wristband of the policy changes and asking them to comply should they want to continue using the trail.

The possibility of a lower fee for trial-only access is not on the table currently, but Matthews told Victoria Buzz that he would “never say never” to the possibility down the road. 

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