Decisions make it difficult to access parks

This editorial appeared in the July 13, 2016 edition of the Interior News. You can download the pdf here.

Provincial parks are supposed to be places where B.C. residents can relax and experience the natural beauty of our province in an affordable way. Yet it’s getting harder and harder to experience that beauty in parts of B.C. through the publicly-owned provincial park system. And that’s primarily because of a couple choices made by the BC Liberal government.

First, underfunding of our provincial parks due to decisions to allocate dollars elsewhere (recall $15 million in promotional government advertising before the last election) means parks have to recoup more of their operating costs. Fees jumped up to $5 a site last March and rose again this year. For popular local parks like Tyhee or Lakelse that now comes to at least $27 a night for a basic campsite where you can pitch a tent. But that’s not all.

To guarantee a spot in one of the popular parks on a weekend, you’ll need to reserve in advance which means an additional $6 per site per night for using the electronic reservation system. Now we’re talking about $100 for a long weekend of camping — and don’t forget you have to pay for the firewood.

Second, a decision to allow commercial operators to use the reservation system means you might not even get a chance to fork over your money to stay in the park. Private companies are going online months in advance to bulk reserve for clients they service in agreements with big motorhome companies or overseas tour groups, for instance. 

Some have called this scalping our tax-payer funded campsites, where the private companies charge as much as $70 a night for the site they flip. The private companies are doing nothing illegal. The choice the BC Liberals made is not to limit these types of for-profit bookings. The result is a regular B.C. resident finds it difficult to reserve a campsite in the iconic parks in the province. In Ontario, for instance, reservations can only be made in the name of the person arriving to pick up the permit which cuts out mass online bookings by a middle-man in advance of the summer. 

Let private campgrounds handle the demand for mass commercial tour packages and leave publicly-owned B.C. parks as an opportunity for B.C. families to enjoy.

- Doug Donaldson is the MLA for Stikine, the Official Opposition spokesperson for children and families and the deputy spokesperson for mining.