Michael Babor and Angela and Randy Massey protested the B.C. Parks decision to eliminate first-come, first-serve camping in Golden Ears Provincial Park during peak season, from mid-May to Labour Day. (The News Files)

Michael Babor and Angela and Randy Massey protested the B.C. Parks decision to eliminate first-come, first-serve camping in Golden Ears Provincial Park during peak season, from mid-May to Labour Day. (The News Files)

Frustrations with reservation system, shut out of Golden Ears park

But there will be first come, first serve sites says operator

Golden Ears Provincial Park campsites were open for booking on Monday morning, but it was again frustrating for Maple Ridge families to reserve a campsite in their own backyard.

Angela Massey has long been advocating for more first come, first serve (FCFS) campsites in the busy park during peak season, and expressed her frustrations again with the Discover Camping online reservation system.

The park has generally been FCFS until May, but this year reservations were available starting Monday at 7 a.m. for arrival dates up to May 8. After that day, they will be available two months in advance.

Massey and people from five other local families had been planning to camp in the park on Easter weekend, which has been an annual event for these dedicated campers. They were up at 6:30 a.m. on Monday getting ready for the opening of the online booking.

Massey summarized her experience: Logged in just prior to 7 a.m. Was “booted out” immediately. Logged in again. Found a camp site. Secured it. Entered credit card information.

Then her plans went sideways, as the reservation system gave her a long message “processing – do not refresh.” She hit “try again” every minute for about 13 minutes, and then she was again “booted” offline, and had to log in. Her reservation was lost.

Each of the other families in her group suffered similar experiences. Just one person managed to get a site, but before the hour was out, everything was booked for the Easter weekend.

Her group instead booked a private campsite that weekend.

The Environment Ministry noted 6,000 people had booked campsites by noon on Monday, and said the reservation system has been a success.

READ ALSO: British Columbians booked more than 7,000 campsites on the first day reservations opened

While the Discover Camping website was slow at times, leading to complaints on social media, it did not appear to fully crash, as it did on opening day last year. The province had warned ahead of time it would be busy, and recommended booking by phone at 1-800-689-9025. Phone reservations have a $5 surcharge.

Stu Burgess, operations manager for Alouette Park Management, which operates Golden Ears Provincial Park, said there will be FCFS sites over the Easter weekend, and for five weekends after.

From April 1 to May 13, reservations at Golden Ears are available in Gold Creek Campground only, which has approximately 160 of the 423 vehicle accessible campsites within the park. That leaves approximately 260 campsites in the Alouette and North Beach Campgrounds (62 per cent of all campsites) that will be available on a first-come first-serve basis from April 1 to May 13.

“We’ll make as many of those available for first-come first-serve camping as are needed,” said Burgess.

READ ALSO: Golden Ears park operator hoping for better system to limit guests

Massey and her group have a petition at change.org with more than 11,000 names, and she has collected another 600 on paper.

B.C. residents are prioritized in the reservation system this year, and out-of-province campers will not be able to start booking reservations until July 8.

Is there more to the story? Email: ncorbett@mapleridgenews.com

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