B.C. Transfers Rec Sites, Trails Oversight from the Forestry Ministry to Environment and Parks

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British Columbia (Canada) outdoor enthusiasts have embraced an announcement by the provincial government that brings all matters related to camping, hiking, and general enjoyment of public land into one place.

According to a report, Louise Pedersen, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C, said he believes it makes a lot of sense to have everything under one umbrella.

The council has been advocating for merging the government’s responsibilities for B.C.’s trails, parks, and recreation areas for a long time since its formation in 1976.

Before Tuesday’s budget, the Forestry Ministry oversaw B.C.’s 1,372 camp and recreation facilities, and 20,000 kilometers of trail that lie on Crown land as the Ministry of Environment kept tabs on conservation and recreation in B.C.’s protected areas.

“Having both agencies under one roof and one minister could bode really well,” Pedersen said.

Reservations are difficult to find, popular campsites and trails are crowded, parking spaces are not enough, and hikers have reported seeing more braided trails made by those who leave main routes to create new routes, damaging fragile ecosystems along the way.

Volunteers are tasked with picking more litter than ever, and litter left on the ground may habituate bears to humans. Likewise, search-and-rescue teams are concerned about the rise in unprepared visitors they had to rescue.

According to critics, green space has not been designed to meet the demands of homes being built, and COVID-19 has only added to the problem because people went to the open spaces during restrictions on gatherings.

The budget didn’t provide additional funds, which Pedersen stated is urgently required to fix the province’s cherished but broken recreation system.

“Decades of chronic underfunding have left B.C. with overburdened trail networks, recreation sites that have fallen into disrepair, cultural and environmental damage, a huge backlog of deferred maintenance, too few staff, lack of capacity to engage effectively with Indigenous governments, and volunteer groups who are burnt out by the sheer volume of work and a lack of support,” Pedersen said.

COVID has highlighted how crucial outdoor activities are, from provincial license plates to posts on Facebook by residents of the province to relatives and friends from Canada.

The Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. directly represents 60 regional and provincial groups, including over 100,000 individuals and outdoors enthusiasts. While more funds are needed to run personnel and operations, Pedersen said the amalgamation of the departments is likely to be a stimulating fresh beginning.

“It could create a solid vision, an ambitious vision of what outdoor recreation in B.C. could look like,” she said. “I choose to be really hopeful. This (amalgamation) is better, a lot better.

“We have some worries and concerns, but overall this could become really good.”

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