Access to provincial parks campsites has become an outdoor horror story for too many British Columbian families.
The number of complaints and disappointments with the bogus reservation system stands as an indictment of provincial government arrogance and general mismanagement of our provincial parks campgrounds.
With 340 campgrounds and a total of more than 11,000 campsites in this province, you’d think there would be no problem finding a nice spot where you could spend a quiet, outdoor weekend.
However, in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island, you’d be dead wrong.
Every weekend in the camping season, whether it’s a holiday weekend or not, the campground full signs are usually in place long before the weekend begins.
The popularity of the provincial campgrounds has created a rock concert mentality for reservations, where unscrupulous jerks make reservations they never intend to use and then flog the reservations just like ticket scalpers at sporting events and rock concert venues. The provincial government seems disinclined to do anything about it.
When the reservation system began, the number of campsites available for reservation was restricted to a small fraction of the overall number of sites at any particular park but that was long ago and has since been forgotten.
In short, if you want a campsite, you pretty much have to make a reservation or face the almost certain disappointment of arriving at a campground only to find it already full.
I’ll use three Lower Mainland provincial campgrounds to show just how poorly the system serves British Columbians.
Golden Ears is one of the largest parks in the system. Its 62,540 hectares includes more than 400 vehicle access campsites of which 215 are available for reservation.
Cultus Lake has 2,729 hectares with 301 campsites, all of which are available for reservations.
Rolley Lake has 115 hectares with 64 campsites, including 42 sites which are available for reservation.
Roughly speaking, that means two-thirds of all the campsites in three of the Lower Mainland’s most popular provincial parks are available for reservation and subsequent opportunistic scalping.
That leaves the general public scrambling and uncertain about the availability of the remaining sites. Many working people with families simply can’t be sure enough of specific dates to use the reservation system and are forced to take their chances or stay at home.
It would seem that the government is aloof to the outdoor recreation needs of its citizens in highly urbanized areas, particularly the Lower Mainland, where 2.6 million of B.C.’s residents live and have a total of just 774 campsites in their own backyard. Only 216 of those campsites are available without reservations.
As far back as the early 1980s, the parks branch of the Greater Vancouver Regional District (now known as Metro Vancouver) identified the serious lack of fresh water recreational opportunities in the Lower Mainland.
The province was aware of this lack, but has done virtually nothing to correct it.
It’s not as though there isn’t ample land near or adjacent to water that could be available for recreation opportunities.
Golden Ears Provincial Park utilizes only a tiny fraction of its 62,540 hectares for campgrounds, trails, day usage, boating and other activities but there is ample room for more campgrounds.
Almost the entire east side of Alouette Lake is already under some form of provincial ownership and could likely be made available for campground development if anyone in Victoria cared enough.
The biggest issue in utilizing the east shore of Alouette Lake for the development of public campgrounds is access but that is only an excuse.
There is ample opportunity to develop proper alternate road access, something that would also solve one of the biggest issues affecting the existing Golden Ears Park.
There is only one existing substandard road in and out of Golden Ears Park and that frequently creates problems for emergency crews.
A new access to the east side of Alouette Lake would provide a needed secondary road into Golden Ears park and would also create an abundance of opportunities to further develop campground opportunities to serve the Lower Mainland.
– Sandy Macdougall is a retired journalist and former city councillor.