Environment Minister Terry Lake was at Golden Ears Provincial Park on Monday morning to announce $500,000 for trail upgrades.
Two Mondays prior, Premier Christy Clark visited the community, meeting with local business people.
But Lake did not flinch at the suggestion that the high profile government attention to Maple Ridge might be seen as campaigning, coming just eight days before the election is officially called on April 16.
“Government goes on until the writ drops,” he said. “We would be announcing this any time. We tell people what we’re doing, whether there’s an election or not.”
“There have been funding announcements throughout the four years I have been here,” echoed Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Marc Dalton.
Speaking from a podium in the parking lot of the day use area, they told about 20 people assembled that the province’s parks receive approximately 20 million visits per year, and approximately 615,000 of those are to Golden Ears.
The hiking trails at the park will be rehabilitated and repaired over the next three years, and some $150,000 will be spent replacing a bridge.
“And thanks to Premier Clark, they don’t have to pay to use the day use facilities,” said Lake.
Members of the Haney Horsemen and the Ridge Meadows Outdoor Club, who have blazed many of the parks trails, were on hand to hear the announcement.
Bill Archibald, trail boss of the Haney Horsemen, estimates the club has cut about 55 km worth of trails in the park, and they are now maintained by the province.
Dalton said the funding announcement followed one for a new observatory in Mission, at Fraser River Heritage Park.
“It’s about tourism, trails, getting outside and healthy living,” said Dalton.
The man who will oppose him in the Maple Ridge-Mission riding says it’s more about trying to win an election when the Liberal Party is trailing in the polls.
“An election is in the air,” said NDP candidate Mike Bocking.
He said it is good to have $500,000 for Golden Ears. “The overall care and maintenance of the park has fallen significantly from where it should be.”
However, “It’s short-sighted, because parks are a big part of the tourism economy.”
He said the B.C. Liberals are still in power for a few days, and he expects there to be more money promised.
“I don’t think anyone is fooled by these last-minute funding announcements,” Bocking adding.
“People are just waiting for May 14 to render their verdict – that’s what I’m hearing at the doorstep.”
The Lower Falls Trail will be upgraded starting this spring, including sections that retain water. The trail will then be resurfaced and is expected to be completed this fall.
In 2014-2015, both the East Canyon and West Canyon trails will undergo upgrades, a new bridge to connect the two trails over Gold Creek will be installed.
The government said that since 2008, more than $3 million has been invested in the main high-use areas and high-occupancy campgrounds in Golden Ears Park, providing safe drinking water, clean electrical power and an improved day-use area with new, more accessible picnic tables.