Golden Ears boss passionate about B.C.’s busiest park

With 409 campsites spread over three campgrounds, the park has also the largest campground complex in the province.

Stu Burgess is up with the sun during these hot summer months, and when most of the campers in Golden Ears Provincial Park are still asleep in their tents, he’s already making his morning rounds.

This year marks Burgess’s 18th season as the park’s operations manager, a job that he says has been a dream come true.

“You’d have to pay me an awful lot to do something else,” he says.

“This job is so rewarding.”

Golden Ears is the busiest provincial park in B.C., with more than 5,000 visitors every day at the height of the hot summer months.

With 409 campsites spread over three campgrounds, the park has also the largest campground complex in the province.

While the park covers more than 62,000 hectares stretching north all the way to where it borders Garibaldi Provincial Park, 30 kilometres east of Squamish, the vast majority of Golden Ears is rugged wilderness, with no trails, and is rarely visited.

“Most of what we do is in the southern portion of the park,” says Burgess.

In the summer months, Burgess has 35 to 40 staff working under him. In the winter, that number dwindles to three or four.

For the most part, the campers who come to Golden Ears are respectful, says Burgess. Those who aren’t, are not welcome.

“We play baseball with them: three strikes and you’re out,” he says.

When the weather is nice, it’s not uncommon for campers to line up overnight in the hopes of snagging a last-minute campsite. But the only way to ensure a spot, says Burgess, is to reserve one week in advance, or show up a week early and stake out a site.

In the campsite office, reservations are marked with colored tags, each hanging on a nail corresponding to one of the park’s 409 campsites.

“It’s a completely manual operation,” says Burgess.

There’s no telephone or cellphone service in the southern portion of the park.  “We’re cash-only up here,” he says.

“We’ve had to send a lot of disappointed people back to town.”

The park has expanded its facilities in recent years, with a new $1-million clean water system, a sewage treatment facility, new park benches, and a new hydro connection to supply the southern portion of the park with power.

“The noisy diesel generators are gone,” says Burgess.

“There’s no noise, no emissions, and that’s great for our campers.”

The twin peaks of Mount Blanshard – the Golden Ears themselves – became part of Garibaldi Provincial Park in 1927.

The Alouette Lake area was the site of an extensive logging operation until a forest fire swept through the area in 1931.

As the second-generation forest rose from the ashes, the park was expanded, and became Golden Ears Provincial Park in 1967.

While the North Shore mountains often prove difficult, if not deadly, for tourists who underestimate the conditions, in Golden Ears Provincial Park, it’s the locals who get into trouble.

“A lot of people aren’t prepared,” says Burgess. “You get off the trail and you’re in dangerous territory.”

Burgess says hikers attempting to scale Golden Ears should always be prepared to spend the night. While an experienced hiker might take six hours to get to the top, novices will take considerably longer.

“We get a lot of calls for twisted ankles, but thankfully we don’t have the problems the North Shore has,” says Burgess.

“We only have five or six search and rescue situations in the park per year.”

For a day trip, Burgess recommends the Alouette Mountain trail, which a novice hiker can do in about 10 hours.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Motorists breaking travel rules can be fined $230 for failing to follow instructions or $575 if the reason for travel violates the essential travel health order, at this Highway 3 check area near Manning Park. Photo RCMP
RCMP begin stopping drivers on BC highways – check point at Manning Park

Four check points are set up Thursday May 6 around the province

Rex, an elderly golden Labrador retriever, is surrounded by his rescuers in Golden Ears Provincial Park. (Special to The News)
VIDEO: Dog survives plunge over Gold Creek Lower Falls in Maple Ridge

Fire chief asks for visitors to be more cautious in Golden Ears Provincial Park

Supt. Wendy Mehat is officially announced as the new Ridge Meadows RCMP officer in charge. (Ridge Meadows RCMP photo/ Special to The News)
RCMP leader gets mayoral nods

Supt. Wendy Mehat has been selected as the Maple Ridge - Pitt Meadows new officer in charge

Maple Ridge secondary athletes who are on their way to compete at the collegiate level: Jade Lenton, Kaelyn Van Garderen, Ivy Threatful, Neve Hayes, Grace Hamilton, Gabby Di Girolamo, Soleil Brooks, Adrian Truong, Jack Emley Graham and missing Cassidy MacPherson. (Neil Corbett/The News)
Ramblers athletes recruited by college teams

Maple Ridge secondary has 10 graduates moving up to post secondary athletics

Dr. Biju Mathew visited Bihar twice to in order to gain perspective to write his book.
Maple Ridge doctor worried about family and friends in India

More than 400,000 new COVID-19 cases in 24 hours reported in India on Wednesday, May 5

Protesters attempt to stop clear-cutting of old-growth trees in Fairy Creek near Port Renfrew. (Will O’Connell photo)
VIDEO: Workers, activists clash at site of Vancouver Island logging operation

Forest license holders asking for independent investigation into incident

Surrey RCMP is investigating after a serious three-vehicle crash at the intersection of King George Boulevard and 128th Street Thursday afternoon (May 6, 2021). (Photo: Shane MacKichan)
VIDEO: Serious crash in Surrey sends 1 to hospital

Surrey RCMP say one of the drivers fled on foot, but was later found at an area hospital

Starting Tuesday, May 11, B.C. adults born in 1981 and earlier will be able to register for a vaccine dose. (Haley Ritchie/Black Press Media)
BC adults 40+ eligible to book COVID-19 vaccinations next week

Starting Tuesday, people born in 1981 and earlier will be able to schedule their inoculation against the virus

John Paul Fraser, executive director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association. (Screen shot)
Salmon farmers warn Surrey jobs on line as feds end Discovery Islands operations

344 full-time jobs at risk in Surrey and 1,189 B.C.-wide

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Parks Canada and Tla-o-qui-aht Tribal Parks dig the washed up Princess M out from sand along the south shore of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Rescue attempt costs man his boat off Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

Coast Guard response questioned after volunteer responder’s speedboat capsizes in heavy swells

Al Kowalko shows off the province’s first electric school bus, running kids to three elementary and two secondary schools on the West Shore. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
B.C.’s first electric school bus making the rounds in Victoria suburbs

No emissions, no fuel costs and less maintenance will offset the $750K upfront expense

The Aquilini Investment Group has agreed to a proposed contract of five years to run the Abbotsford Centre. (File photo)
Proposal to run Abbotsford Centre offered to Canucks ownership group

Planned five-year contract to cost city $750K annually, starting Jan. 1, 2022

Road sign on Highway 1 west of Hope warns drivers of COVID-19 essential travel road checks on the highways into the B.C. Interior. (Jessica Peters/Chilliwack Progress)
B.C. residents want travel checks at Alberta border, MLA says

Police road checks in place at highways out of Vancouver area

Most Read