Winter has been unusually busy at Golden Ears Provincial Park.
This past Saturday, more than 2,000 vehicles entered the park.
“Some summers, that would be a normal, nice summer day,” said Stu Burgess, operations manager for both Golden Ears and Rolley Lake Provincial Parks.
He believes people are still flocking to the park because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“People can’t go anywhere and they can’t travel far so they are all staying close to home,” Burgess noted.
“And parks are a great place to go,” he said.
In December last year, there were about 18,000 cars that travelled to the park. Normally Burgess would see between 12,000 and 13,000 vehicles. Although, he noted, winter attendance can really vary because of gate closures from snow.
Given that, park attendance is still “way way above usual”.
And the amount of people camping in the park for the winter is way up as well, he said.
“I can’t give you any numbers. I would say an increase of more than 50 per cent of what we are used to,” asserted Burgess.
Record numbers converged on the park last summer – so much so that a day pass system was implemented at the end of July to regulate traffic.
Three different passes were made available for the park – a pass for the Gold Creek and West Canyon parking lot; a pass for the day use area and the main beach; and a pass for the boat launch.
Although the system did deter traffic to the park, Burgess said at the end of the summer that there were still issues with the system including: days when 3,700 vehicles would make their way to the park when there was only room for 1,700; people not knowing about the pass system, people not being able to get passes when they became available at 6 a.m. each day and not knowing what passes to get.
From June until September, 2020, around 218,000 vehicles entered Golden Ears park, 55,000 more than the previous year – a 34 per cent increase.
“That’s about 763,000 people,” said Burgess in October as he was gearing up for the winter camping season that started Oct. 15.
“Quite often in the winter there are very, very few people here. I’m certain that’s going to change this winter,” Burgess said at the time.
BC Parks has yet to publish the opening date for campers to be able to make reservations for the summer, said Burgess. Last year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, camping only became open for registration two months in advance, as opposed to four months in previous years.
Burgess is not sure what is happening this year. He is also not sure if the day-pass system will be returning.
However, there is no day-pass system in use currently in the park, he said.