VANCOUVER (July 24, 2020) – North Shore BC Liberal MLAs, Jane Thornthwaite, Ralph Sultan, and Jordan Sturdy, have released the following statement on the announcement of BC Park’s new pilot for free day-use passes for provincial parks located in their constituencies:
“On July 22, BC Parks announced a new pilot for free day-use passes for six provincial parks, which include:
“As MLAs with ridings that cover four of the six parks impacted, we know trail users of all kinds will have many questions and comments about this new program. We know that the popularity of these local mountains has increased exponentially over the years and this ultimately has negative effects on the environment in and around the trails. Finding an efficient manner to help manage our trails is important, but we must monitor this pilot for its efficacy throughout the duration. COVID-19 has increased the use of local trails, as residents heed the advice of local health offices to stay local and outside this summer.
“There are also concerns raised around the diversion of trail users to areas that they are not familiar with. This could lead to an increase in search and rescue calls, as users look for new routes to explore due to new limited capacity of the listed trails. North Shore Rescue Team has already seen an unprecedented increase in callouts to locate lost, relatively unsophisticated hikers. BC Parks should strive to educate users on all available trails and make sure users know the required equipment they need for each one. Spreading users out over a much larger area with little or no management raises some potential concerns. These are the heaviest used provincial parks in the system, however, until now they have had close to zero provincial employee presence to manage them.
“We have received feedback from BC Parks that they are confident the Discover Camping website, which will handle the pass system, can handle the load. Given that BC Parks is planning a $5 per-person fee for day use of Joffre Lake Provincial Park starting in 2021, we would not at all be surprised if the current pilot is a precursor to a broader plan to charge British Columbians for their right to access to provincial parks and other Crown lands.
“We will also monitor how this impacts backcountry users and seek feedback from trail users of all kinds on how this program is impacting them and will share that with both BC Parks and the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change. We encourage constituents to contact our offices to provide feedback over the next number of weeks and months.”