The Squamish-Lillooet Regional District Board of Directors and Líl'wat Nation Chief and Council have approved a Co-Management Plan for the Riverside Wetlands/Ském’em Community Park.
Earlier this year, we invited members of the public to comment on the park’s draft Management Plan by participating in a survey. We received more than 120 responses, with residents highlighting a variety of uses for the park including mountain biking, access to the river, hiking, dog walking, use of the popular Bathtub Trail, and wildlife viewing.
Respondents also expressed support and enthusiasm for the plan’s four primary goals: Conservation, Education, Recreation and the Preservation of Líl'wat Nation Cultural Sites and Traditional Uses.
Thanks to everyone who contributed their feedback.
Crown Land Tenure Application
The SLRD intends to apply for tenure of the southern parcel of the park. This section is used frequently by the community and boasts one of the few remaining valley floor stands of old growth cedar close to town. A beach along the Lillooet River also experiences intense recreational use. Additionally, several Líl’wat cultural sites have been identified on the southern parcel. The SLRD’s first application for tenure was rejected in 2003, because there was no legal access to the land other than by water. The access issue was resolved in 2012 when the SLRD co-purchased the land to the north, with partners Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Trust of BC. However, the application was rejected due to the lack of a Management Plan supported by the Líl'wat Nation, due to the listed cultural sites on the parcel. Now that a Co-Management Plan with Líl'wat Nation has been drafted and approved, the SLRD intends to re-apply for a Crown Land Tenure. If successful, this tenure will allow the SLRD and Líl'wat Nation to proceed with co-management and protection of the southern section.
Some directional signs will be installed by the end of this year. In 2018, work will begin on designing and installing interpretive signs. We will update the web page and our social media channels as information and updates become available to us regarding the park.
Uplands Trail Construction
The Management Plan identifies the construction of an Uplands Trail as a desired feature, because it will provide improved viewing of the wetland flora and fauna, and will also enable access to the park during the wet season when the lower trail is flooded. Thanks to the support of Garibaldi Tree and Landscape which provided a complimentary danger tree assessment, and volunteers from the Pemberton Fire Zone (BC Wildfire Service), who offered to construct the trail at no cost, work on the Uplands Trail is now complete. Thank you to all of the volunteers who worked hard to make this trail a reality!
Riverside Wetlands/Ském'em Community Park covers 91 acres of land within walking distance of the Village of Pemberton.
It has been used by area residents for many years, first for hunting, gathering and ceremonial uses by Líl'wat Nation, and later for recreation by Pemberton area residents.
The park can be accessed by Pemberton Farm Road East, which continues through and provides access to the Mackenzie Basin and backcountry. The most frequent users of the park include mountain bikers, hikers, bird watchers, and dog walkers. Hunters and paragliders cross through the park to get to the Mackenzie Basin beyond. The park's proximity to schools and residential areas allows for learning opportunities to discover its diverse inhabitants.
The park is separated by a CN Rail right of way, into a north and a south section. The northern section is owned by the SLRD, Ducks Unlimited and the Nature Trust of BC in fee simple, with the intent for the SLRD to lease/operate the park. The southern section is Crown land. The SLRD has applied for tenure for the southern section. A Management Plan is part of the requirement for tenure.
The northern section of Riverside Park, containing the wetland, has long been identified by Pemberton Wildlife Association and Stewardship Pemberton as a valuable resource, both environmentally and for recreation. When Pemberton Wildlife Association learned the private parcel was being sold in 2012, the organization proposed the purchase to the SLRD and worked with Ducks Unlimited to acquire funding.
The wetland within the park is incredibly diverse with over 550 species identified through the annual Bio Blitz event sponsored by Whistler Naturalists and Stewardship Pemberton. The park is also an important flyway and breeding area for waterfowl. The upland section of the park is a completely different ecosystem, where the warm dry climate led to discovery of the rare, red-listed Sharp Tailed Snake, far outside its normal range.
Management Plan Development
When the northern section of the park was purchased in 2012 by Ducks Unlimited, the Nature Trust of BC and the SLRD, its objectives were described as conservation, preservation of cultural sites, education and recreation. The SLRD's agreement with Ducks Unlimited also includes a requirement fora management plan. The SLRD Board resolved on July 22, 2013:
THAT staff work cooperatively with Lil'wat and Stewardship Pemberton to develop a co-management plan for the Riverside Wetlands and Riverside Park properties.
Before the draft plan was completed, LÍl'wat elders, members of the LÍl'wat Land Use Referral Committee and a Ducks Unlimited biologist made several field work visits to the site. They then made recommendations which were incorporated into the draft plan. An Aboriginal Interest and Use Study was undertaken by Lil’wat Nation and the SLRD in 2013 and is included as an Appendix to the Park Management Plan.
The plan was drafted with the help of LÍl'wat Nation’s Land and Resources Department, and reviewed by Stewardship Pemberton, Pemberton Wildlife Association and Pemberton Valley Trails Association.
Co-management of the Park now falls to Líl'wat and the SLRD.
The park’s name was changed from Riverside Park to Riverside Wetlands/ Ském’em Community Park earlier in 2017.
The name change reflects the LÍl'wat/SLRD co-management of the park as well as the traditional use of the lowland area of the park, which was “to dig edible roots” – “Ském’em” in Ucwalmícwts, which is the traditional language of the Lil’wat people.