vertshock.com

Five things to know about B.C.’s ‘locals first’ camping season

The Discover Camping reservation system opens March 8. Time to get planning.

Article content

Trip planning is a popular pastime among winter-weary British Columbians. Plotting and then anticipating a sunny adventure can soften February’s cold edge.

But with travel restricted for much of the winter, there hasn’t felt like much point. Until now.

This week, the B.C. government outlined plans for the summer camping season with the Discover Camping reservation system opening March 8 for bookings two months in advance.

While Environment Minister George Heyman is still asking people to “pick a campground as close to home as possible,” the thought of piney woods, s’mores and swimming in cold, clear water is decidedly uplifting and, even better, hints at life beyond the daily COVID case counts.

Before you start trip planning, here are five things you should know about B.C.’s upcoming camping season:

1. Have a ‘Plan B’

Here’s your chance to really use your trip-planning skills. The government says this year’s camping season is expected to be busy, so it might be wise to have several options in case your first choice is booked.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Last spring, when camping reservations reopened after being put on hold in the early days of the pandemic, the Discover Camping system was inundated. Heyman tweeted that over 27,000 camping reservations were made in the first few hours, or about 10 reservations per second.

That is less likely to happen this year as reservations will open in March and presumably continue throughout the spring, but there is bound to be competition for popular sites, particularly on long weekends.

In a statement, the Ministry of Environment said it had worked with its website provider to improve service, and staffing levels will be increased at the reservation call centre.

2. First dibs for locals

Like last year, people who live in B.C. will get priority access to reservations.

While you can book campsites two months in advance of your anticipated arrival date starting March 8, people from outside the province can’t reserve until July 8 — or they aren’t supposed to.

Critics say that since the Discover Camping website only requires you to click a button saying you are a B.C. resident — it doesn’t require proof of B.C. residency — this may not work as intended.

Unfair camping reservation practices have been an issue in the past. In 2016, B.C. Parks launched an investigation after they received complaints that RV rental companies were booking large numbers of sites for international clients, leaving locals in a lurch. There were also reports of people booking popular sites and then flipping them for profit.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

The government made changes, reducing the length of stay at popular campgrounds, and making reservations non-transferable in an effort to clamp down on the problem.

The Ministry of Environment said non-B.C. residents will still be allowed in parks this summer, whether for day-use or first-come, first-served camping. “People may see out-of-province license plates in our parks, but there may be different reasons why they are there. In some cases, they may in fact be B.C. residents.”

3. Not ‘business as usual’ in the backcountry

You will need to factor COVID-19 into your plans.

It is unclear when health restrictions could be eased to allow travel between regions, particularly as there are fears about a third wave of the pandemic. For now, B.C. Parks is striking a balance between opening provincial campgrounds and telling people to “avoid long road trips and non-essential travel.”

The decision to open campgrounds seems to have been made in recognition of the “heightened importance of outdoor recreation during these uncertain times,” as Kelly Greene, parliamentary secretary for environment, said in a news release.

Reservations for day-use facilities, including picnic shelters and halls, remain closed for the 2021 season, and campsite reservations come with a caveat: Public health guidelines for gatherings may change throughout the season, meaning you may have to alter your plans between the time of booking a campsite and scheduled arrival date.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

“All camping parties must ensure they meet current public health guidelines for gatherings, even if those allowed numbers are less than the maximum site allowance,” according to the Ministry of Environment.

4. The crown jewels

There is a strange tendency in outdoor writing to call parks “jewels.” The prettiest and most popular are often referred to as the “crown jewels” of the park system.

In the case of the B.C. park system, which boasts more than 1,000 provincial parks covering more than 14 per cent of the province’s land base, it is impossible to decide on the best and brightest.

Over the last three years, 1,205 new campsites have been added to the system. In early summer, a fully-serviced RV park will open in E.C. Manning Provincial Park near 20 Minute Lake. The project is the first of its kind and will offer water, sewer, electrical sites, and a heated shower building.

Earlier this year, the government announced $5 million in projects in 24 provincial parks, including upgrades to popular trails, bear caches, water systems and electric vehicle charging stations.

B.C. Parks will also add five new backcountry campsite and improve hiking and mountain biking trails in Pinecone Burke Provincial Park near Coquitlam, a 38,000-hectare wilderness area that is largely unaccessible to the public.

5. The money trail

B.C.’s outdoor groups have long been calling on government to provide more funding for B.C. Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails B.C., which manages recreation on Crown land outside provincial parks.

Advertisement

This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content

Earlier this month, 25 outdoor organizations sent a letter to Premier John Horgan asking government to increase the annual operating budget for Recreation Sites and Trails B.C. to $12.5 million. They also launched a letter-writing campaign that has resulted in more than 1,400 letters being delivered to MLAs ahead of the spring budget.

“The pandemic has elevated the value of the park system and that is unlikely to wane,” Louise Pedersen, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C., told Postmedia in an interview last month. “But the unprecedented interest also highlights the need for more resources.”

B.C. Parks is responsible for one of the largest park systems in North America, including more than 14 million hectares and over 1,000 parks and protected areas, on a budget of $40.6 million. In comparison, the Metro Vancouver Regional Parks budget was $42.6 million for 23 regional parks and other areas.

gluymes@postmedia.com

twitter.com/glendaluymes

Comments

Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

— to vancouversun.com

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

vertshock.com
Translate »