Solitude in the wilderness is still available in B.C.

Provincial campsite rush mostly B.C. residents

Few BC Parks bookings going to commercial operators, solution is more campsite spaces, Environment Minister Mary Polak says

Foreign visitors and those on package tours are a small fraction of the demand for B.C. Parks campgrounds around the province, but B.C. resident campers are still using a few tricks to get spaces for high-demand parks.

Some have protested the use of online reservations by motorhome tour operators who sell them as part of a package for tourists.

“Our provincial campsites are not products to be sold, they belong to the people of B.C.,”  Green Party leader Andrew Weaver said this week.

Environment Minister Mary Polak told Black Press numbers are being tracked for the current year, and the proportions haven’t changed much. In 2015, fewer than one per cent of reservable B.C. Parks spaces were booked by tour operators, who also use private camping facilities.

Three quarters of reservations are from within B.C. The second highest share is from Alberta at 14 per cent, the U.S. accounts for 3.6 per cent, the rest of Canada 2.8 per cent, and all European countries combined are 6.6 per cent of the total.

The BC Parks system has 10,700 camping spaces in total, and 5,600 are reservable, to manage demand for the most popular spots.

First-come, first-served sites are kept out of the reservation system in some popular locations to accommodate travellers who drop in along the road. For high-demand periods like the recent Canada Day weekend, savvy campers work the reservation system.

At Golden Ears Provincial Park, one group booked for two weeks as soon as the 90-day eligibility window opened, then dropped the first week, giving them the coveted Canada Day weekend dates before they were generally available.

“Every year we look to change things to keep people from cheating, and every year they find new ways,” Polak said. “Really the only answer is going to be finding a way to expand the number of sites that we have available.”

It’s shaping up as a record year for the Discover Camping reservation service, with 92,000 bookings so far this year.

B.C. Parks has added four new sites for this summer. Reservations can be made for Garibaldi Provincial Park in the Whistler area, Ruckle Provincial Park on Saltspring Island, Okanagan Falls Provincial Park, Inland Lake Provincial Park near Powell River and Dry Gulch Provincial Park near Radium Hot Springs.


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