City of Powell River council took steps to protect a popular rock climbing area from future residential development at its meeting on August 24.
Named after local climber Rob Higgins, Higgyland began to increase in popularity as a rock climbing area in the late 1980s after Higgins brought south-of-town climbers to the rocky outcropping. The area just north of Shinglemill Pub and Bistro on Powell Lake has seen continual climbing use ever since.
Land developer and mayor Dave Formosa and business partner Mark Hassett have applied to the city for rezoning along Atlin Avenue in Wildwood for a 30-lot residential subdivision located right next to Higgyland. The 30-lot area is one part of a 150-acre lot stretching north along the lakeside.
Councillor Russell Brewer brought the motion forward to have a no-build restrictive covenant placed on part of the property to preserve access for climbers.
“Higgyland has a lot of value and maybe we won't realize the full potential in value for a generation yet, but at least I want the city to be in a position where we can take advantage of that when the time comes,” said Brewer. “Putting a restrictive covenant on a relatively small portion of the property is a simple way to do that.”
Council added the restriction as a subject of rezoning for the Atlin development. Specific details of where developers will be restricted from building have yet to be determined, said city director of planning Thomas Knight.
Formosa publicly declared his interest in the rezoning before the discussion began and stepped outside during the debate. After the meeting he said he and his business partners recognize the importance of the climbing area for local recreation and are working with the city to determine how much of the bluff will be protected.
Knight said the city is planning meetings with the climbing community and developers to work out a solution.
“The city is particularly interested to know how much of the top of Higgyland is needed by the climbers,” said Knight.
Local rock climbing instructor Christie Dionne said she has been talking about having the area set aside since October 2016.
"I'm just really happy to see it come to fruition," said Dionne.
Dionne said the more than 40 climbing routes on the rock face have been seeing more use as rock climbing in the area continues to gain notoriety.
Higgyland does not include many routes for beginner climbers and will work well for those who gain climbing experience at Powell River Climbing Co-op’s indoor wall in Townsite when it opens, she added.
Knight said the city is protecting the Sunshine Coast Trail and access to the climbing area through the proposed subdivision.
"Ultimately, what we'd like to have is Higgyland dedicated as a park,” said Knight, “but the city can only do that when the developers come in to develop the area outside the 30-lots portion of the property."