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Cruising areas battered by storms

Biggest blow to hit Lees Trail since Typhoon Freda

STILL LURKABLE: Some suspect the city could use the cleanup of Stanley Park as an excuse to drive outdoor sex enthusiasts away for good. Credit: Xtra West files

The havoc wreaked by the recent spate of windstorms that blasted Vancouver’s Stanley Park is having repercussions on the city’s queer cruising community as many of the paths around Lees Trail have been seriously damaged by fallen timber.

The storms brought down thousands of trees, some of them more than 100 years old, and veteran cruiser Walter Muller is worried the parks board could use the devastation as an excuse to try to stop cruising in the area altogether.

Muller says cruising around Lees Trail has continued but has dropped off since the storms. He’s worried that if cleanup crews use the trailhead of Lees and Cathedral trails by Third Beach to move heavy machinery in and out of the park, the traffic could drive cruisers away and make the damage even worse.

“The whole area will become a logging road with trucks coming and going,” Muller says. “It will destroy the cruising areas, there’s no doubt about it. If they wanted a legitimate reason to stop cruising, they’ve got it.

“Our traditional cruising areas are very much threatened,” he continues. “They will become a casualty of the reconstruction.”

And, says Muller, work to restore the park completely could take months if not years, which doesn’t bode well for park sex in the near future.

“It ain’t going to be much fun this summer,” he laments. “There’s going to be chainsaws buzzing everywhere.”

But restoration work is not expected to be a 24-hour-a-day affair.

And, queer parks board commissioner Spencer Herbert says the restoration of the park to its pre-storm state will not involve any moves to curtail cruising.

“I don’t think we’re talking about eliminating any park activity,” he says. “If it’s not bothering anybody, I don’t think we’re going to do anything about it.”

Herbert says anyone heading into the park for sex should think twice because the trails are unsafe. He recommends that everyone stay out altogether until crews have a chance to clean up the mess.

“I’m concerned about people’s safety. Don’t go into the park. It’s certainly dangerous, especially if you’re pushing through the brush,” he warns.

Herbert asks that if people must venture into the park that they stay on open trails and not venture behind barricades. He says the danger is from trees that continue to fall. He cites the example of a parks truck and a CBC van that were hit by falling trees, Jan 9. A woman was seriously injured in that accident, and drag diva Willie Taylor, who saw the tree hit the woman, called crews to help her.

Muller agrees that going into the park now is risky. He says he’s been through and seen snags and trees ready to fall.

“It’s dangerous,” he acknowledges. “You could step on a log or a branch and it could snap back at you and you’d be fucked.”

Herbert jokes that the storms could lead to a lot of sexual frustration, but says no one has so far called the parks board office to complain about the loss of cruising areas.

And, he says even though Stanley Park remains officially closed, there are still more than 200 parks in Vancouver, the University Endowment Lands forests and the huge Central Park in Burnaby, “if you need to go for your hike or whatever you call it.”

Herbert says he feels badly for the parks board crews who have been working seven days a week to clean up the mess only to be hit by subsequent storms.

The last time Stanley Park was damaged by winds was October of 1962 when Typhoon Freda flattened an estimated 20 percent of the trees.

As Xtra West goes to press, the park and sections of the seawall remain closed, thousands of trees have fallen or are snagged, and the price tag for cleanup is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

Roads on the east side had reopened following the park’s closure on Jan 9 due to the latest severe windstorm. Visitors could enter from Georgia Street.

Park Dr east to Pipeline Rd, Avison Way which provides access to the aquarium, and Pipeline Rd were open as of Jan 12.

The seawall on the east side of the park had also reopened, but was closed beyond Pipeline Rd.

The west side of Park Dr, beyond Pipeline Rd, and the seawall between the Beach Ave entrance to Third Beach remained closed while crews carried out tree inspections.

Access to the park southbound from the causeway was also closed at press time. Crews continued to work to reopen the remainder of the roadways as soon as possible.

Those wishing to contribute to the parks cleanup can call 604.257.6911.