My family and I take every opportunity to enjoy the outdoors. We spent three weeks in July camping and hiking in provincial and national parks in both B.C. and Alberta. We came home concerned about the state of B.C. Parks for the following reasons:
B.C. now has very few full-time park rangers left. Seasonal rangers are hired for the busiest peak periods but they don’t last long because they can’t make a career from part-time work. We missed the interpretive programming that used to be common in B.C. Parks.
There is no better way to educate children and families about nature and wildlife than to offer educational presentations. In the past, families would gather after dinner at a designated spot to hear talks on bears, bats, glaciers, forest fires and controlled burns, etc. When people learn to appreciate the diversity of the parks, and the flora and fauna in them, they usually do everything in their power to protect them. They also learn to handle animal encounters properly.
At the Mount Robson campsite, there is an immaculate and expensive log building with a stage and many rows of seating built for presentations. No presentations take place as there is no staff member to do them. We were told by one employee that they barely had time to collect camp fees and clean bathrooms.
The overflows at many popular campsites were full. At one campsite, we had two men arrive in their car just before 8 a.m. and wait until we packed up because they were desperate for a site and we were the only campers leaving that day. Reserving campsites online in B.C. is a time-consuming and frustrating experience. There are not nearly enough spaces to fill the need. There are not enough non-reservable sites either. Not everyone can plan camping trips three months in advance. Families should be able to head out for a camping weekend on short notice.
In the 1990s, the size of our protected areas doubled, which was great, but there was no money or manpower to manage the new areas. This was followed by severe budget cuts in the early 2000s. The situation has continued to deteriorate since then. There is signage in many parks stating expected behaviours and listing the rules, but there is no one to enforce them.
The mission statement for B.C. Parks is, “to protect representative and special natural places for world class conservation, outdoor recreation, education and scientific study.” The auditor general completed a report in 2010 declaring that B.C. Parks, “is failing to meet even its most basic responsibility to maintain ecological integrity.”
No one listened. Residents of B.C. must demand that government re-establish funding for B.C. Parks in order to preserve the world class parks residents and visitors often take for granted.