The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy in British Columbia (Canada) announced on Thursday that the free BC Parks Day-Use Pass Program is returning to three of the province’s most beloved parks.
As per a report, the move aims to balance the growing number of visitors and the need to conserve the natural and cultural values that make these parks unique.
The day-use passes are not new to BC, as many people have purchased them in previous years. However, this decision has raised concerns among outdoor recreation advocates about the province’s restrictions and limited outdoor activities options.
The pass requirements vary depending on the park and location. From May 6 to October 9, visitors will need a pass to visit Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. From June 14 to September 4, a pass will be required for Golden Ears Provincial Park, and from June 14 to October 9, specific trailhead parking lots in Garibaldi Provincial Park (Diamond Head, Rubble Creek, and Cheakamus) will also require a pass. Passes on the BC Parks reservation site can be purchased two days before arrival, starting at 7 a.m.
Golden Ears and Garibaldi will have vehicle passes available, while Joffre Lakes will have individual trail passes. The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy stated, “Some of B.C.’s most popular parks are drawing more visitors than ever as outdoor recreation continues to grow in popularity.”
The surge in park visits is evident, with Lower Mainland parks experiencing a flood of visitors at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a trend that has continued through the winter.
In 2019, park visits on the South Coast spiked to 10.3 million, up from 6.5 million in 2010. At this rate, the ministry projects visits to hit 16 million per year by 2029.
However, the increased footfall has taken a toll on the provincial park trails around Metro Vancouver, leading to issues such as soil erosion, damaged vegetation, and altered hydrology. According to the ministry spokesperson, it has also impacted visitors’ experiences and public safety, with search and rescue teams across Metro Vancouver dealing with a spike in rescues in previously less-explored wilderness areas.
The BC Parks Day-Use Pass Program was first introduced in 2020, and in 2021, five parks required passes, including Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson Park, Chief Parks Backside Trail in the Stawamus Chief Park, and the trailheads at Diamond Head, Rubble Creek, and Cheakamus in Garibaldi Park, as well as Golden Ears Park.
While the ministry has stated that the free passes have been effective in reducing the impact on the natural environment and providing a more enjoyable experience by reducing congestion on trails, roads, and parking lots, outdoor recreation advocates are calling for more investments in expanding the park system and creating more opportunities for people to get outside.
Louise Pedersen, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC (ORCBC), expressed disappointment at the lack of investments in expanding parks and creating more trails, citing that seven in 10 British Columbians participate in outdoor recreation on an annual basis, according to surveys conducted by the council.
BC Parks has announced an investment of CA$21.5 million to expand and enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation throughout the province, focusing on new campsites and trails and upgrading parking lots and facilities.
The ministry spokesperson stated most public use occurs on developed trails, backcountry camping facilities, and established trailheads/parking lots. However, these facilities all have finite capacity, and overuse can negatively impact ecological values.