The group fighting for more drive-up camping spots in Golden Ears Provincial Park, armed with an 8,000-name petition, got a meeting with senior B.C. Parks officials on Thursday.
Angela Massey said her Maple Ridge-based group will continue to push for half the campsites to be drive-up. B.C. Parks had announced Golden Ears would be reservation-only as early as this summer. They reversed that decision after the local group of “unhappy campers,” led by Massey, her husband Randy and friend Michael Babor started their public campaign.
They have been successful in keeping 15 per cent of the sites at Golden Ears drive-up for the coming camping season. But 350 of the 409 sites will be reserved online.
Now, Massey said they have also secured a commitment from B.C. Parks to public consultation, and meet with her group, again.
She is encouraged by the involvement of senior government officials.
“I think we have a chance to change the policy for all of B.C., to make it more equitable,” she said.
The alternative, she added, will be for people to plan their holidays four months in advance. Then they will have to book campsites using an online system, where desirable camping days are booked up within minutes of becoming available.
They will be up against people will have already booked two weeks earlier. They schedule their two-week booking to end on the most desirable days – the ones they really want – and then cancel the earlier days they never wanted. They pay a cancellation fee, but are willing in order to get the dates they want.
“That’s how they game the system,” said Massey.
B.C. Parks said it has made more sites online reservable in reaction to public demand.
“The overwhelming public demand is for increased reservation opportunities,” said spokesperson David Karn in September. “B.C. Parks adjusts reservable inventory on an annual basis in response to occupancy demand.”
The Golden Ears reservations were at 60 per cent reservable in 2016, 75 per cent in 2017, and 85 per cent in 2018. They were announced at 100 per cent reservable online for 2019, until Massey’s group got involved.
“Now we’re fighting for next year,” said Massey.
“Their goal is still to get to 100 per cent.”
She said she speaks for a lot of campers,and is armed with a petition that has more than 7,900 signatures online, and more that have been handwritten. All want the convenience of being able to drive into Golden Ears, rather than booking online four months in advance.
They met with Jennie Aikman, the director of B.C. Parks for the Southern Coast Region, and three other parks officials. With Massey was Mel Turner and Lucien Campeau, of the B.C. Parks Elders Council – former parks employees who still advocate on parks issues. Campeau helped to design Golden Ears.
Massey said they pointed out that there is no provincial policy on the reservation system, so decisions are being made on an ad hoc basis. Some parks, such as Cultus Lake, have gone to 100 per cent reservations, with no public consultation process, and no policy, she said.
The result, said Massey, is the campgrounds might be 100 per cent booked, but many campers don’t show up for their sites if there is poor weather, or for other reasons. Other campers can’t get into the park, even though sites are not being used.
That happens a lot, she said.
“The sign says ‘park full,’ but it’s empty, and we’re by ourselves in the middle Gold Creek.”
Her group is saying that all B.C. Parks need to be operated based on a set of guiding principles, not systems set up for the convenience of park operators.
“We want to see a formalized public consultation process, and a policy,” she said.
The camping season is generally from May to the Labour Day weekend.
B.C. Parks notes campsites that have not been reserved are available on a walk-up basis for one or two nights, as capacity allows, all season.
All of Golden Ears campsites are also 100 per cent walk-up outside of peak season. Of the 10,700 campsites B.C. Parks manages, approximately 55 per cent are reservable and 45 per cent remain available on a walk-up basis.