Hikers document disrepair in B.C. Parks
Park users decry overflowing parking lots, broken trails, missing signs and absent rangers as funding remains flat
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Hiking enthusiasts say a recent video of an overflowing provincial park parking lot illustrates the pressure on B.C. parks — and they say current funding levels are not enough to protect the natural areas.
“The infrastructure’s not being kept up the way it used to,” said Jodi Appleton, executive director of the Federation of Mountain Clubs of B.C. “In addition, more parks are continually being added by the province — which is great — but to keep those parks up and running and make them accessible and safe, they do need more funding.”
Appleton’s organization has been encouraging members to send in photos of trails and signage in need of repair, which it has been publishing on social media with the hashtag #fundbcparks. The video showing a very, very long line of cars parked on the side of the highway this Labour Day at Joffre Lakes near Pemberton is one more example of both the growing popularity of B.C. Parks and inadequate infrastructure, Appleton said.
Appleton listed the problems Mountain Club members have noted at various parks: missing trail signs and trail markers, boardwalks that are falling apart and damaged staircases and bridges. Without proper drainage, hikers are also walking around the muddy centre of trails, which has the effect of widening the path into protected areas.
Park users are also concerned there are not enough rangers on staff to enforce park rules, protect the environment and monitor situations like Joffre Lakes’ Sept. 3 parking chaos. And while many are willing to volunteer to maintain trails, that work still requires BC Parks staff resources to oversee and organize, Appleton said.
BC Parks statistics show that while there was a 10 per cent increase in park users between 2012 and 2015, the base government budget for provincial parks fell from $33.5 million in 2011/2012 to $30.1 million in 2014/2015. When the park revenue BC Parks is allowed to put toward expenses was added in, the overall budget increased three per cent between 2012 and 2015.
Steve Jones, a hiker from Burnaby, said there is a disconnect between the B.C. government’s promotion of tourism, the increase in park visitors, and the funding situation.
“A lot of money is being spent to promote B.C. as a destination…it’s successful, it’s great for our economy, there are many social and economic benefits,” Jones said. “But without the investment in trails, the trails that are there are becoming a little overcrowded.”
In an emailed response, Ministry of the Environment staff wrote that 164 park rangers will be on duty in 2016 and 2017, in addition to conservation officers and contracted park operators who also play a part in enforcement. Park visitors report an 80 per cent satisfaction rate, and the province has invested over $60 million over the past five years in various BC Parks projects, ministry staff wrote.