There are some new signs beside the road leading to the new parking lot up at Strawberry Pass, alerting drivers not to block it. The signs are not professional -- they were made by volunteers, out of donated scrap material, hand-lettered with a felt pen, and stuck into the snowbanks on Saturday morning, November 18th. So far, they seem to be working.
On Sunday, November 19, there were 16 vehicles in the new parking lot at Strawberry Pass at one point in the early afternoon, and room for many more. The traditional parking area beside the highway was full, and a number of cars were also parked along the highway; were they afraid to venture in to the new lot? Or just too addicted to the drive-in convenience of highway-side parking? Didn't want that tiny extra dose of exercise?
Your reporter drove her slightly beat-up old Echo (a sub-compact front-wheel drive car) into the new parking lot without difficulty, and later drove out again without difficulty. Here's a view of the spacious new lot:
In the meanwhile, people were also parking, loading and unloading vehicles at the Crowe Road entrance, and parking along the highway there too.
Who paid for the new lot?
The new parking lot did not come cheap. A generous grant from Canada 150 paid for its construction, but Friends of the Rossland Range (FORRS: the society that manages the Rossland Range Recreation Site) is still trying to figure out how to pay for keeping it plowed and usable.
Department of Highways is not responsible for plowing out parking lots.
The plowing crews that clear the highways are not paid to clear parking areas beside Highway 3-B. Sometimes they are able to clear them, but it's voluntary ― it isn't part of their job description, and people who understand that are very grateful for what the crews find time to do. Currently, FORRS is paying a local man to clear the new parking lot and its access road when he can, but there is no assured funding to continue indefinitely.
Clearing the parking areas is sometimes delayed when cars are parked in them very early in the morning, or late at night, blocking the snow-clearing equipment.
Rec Site for health!
Judging by the numbers of vehicles parking at Strawberry Pass and at every other possible access point to recreational routes and destinations in the Rossland Range Recreation Site, and folks met out in the hills, more and more people of all ages are getting out to enjoy the area. FORRS considers the Rec Site an important local aspect of health maintenance. Exercise is good for everyone; and more studies are showing that being out in natural surroundings such as forests is a significant health benefit too. (For one report on this, click here.)
Unfortunately most of us have to drive somewhere out of town and park to get out among those trees.
A product of volunteer energy
The Rec Site became a reality because the local community worked for over a decade to make it happen. Volunteers built all he old original illicit shelters that are now being replaced legally, and volunteer labour constructed the new shelters replacing them. Volunteers cut the firewood and do all maintenance.
Free Public Recreation is the primary goal for the Rec Site. FORRS will not charge for parking. But if anyone is interested in helping to keep that capacious new parking lot cleared for winter use, to diminish the hazards of parking along the highway, donations are welcome. If you're keen and have a few extra dollars, you can donate by way of the link below:
And here's a tree in our health-giving forest, beside a winter track (ski poles for scale):