British Columbia (Canada) recreation and tourism groups have penned a message to new Premier David Eby to call on the provincial government to increase the budget for the outdoor sector.
According to a report from Cranbrook Daily Townsman, 40 organizations and businesses across B.C. are expressing concerns over the increasing outdoor recreation demand, which is already straining limited resources.
They expressed a few concerns: lack of parking, access to sanitation facilities, aging recreation infrastructure, environmental and wildlife impacts, maintenance backlogs, and staffing shortages.
In the letter addressed to the premier, the groups urged the government to increase the annual operational budget of Recreation Sites and Trails BC to CA$20 million and the yearly budget of B.C. Parks to CA$100 million, to amend the Trails Strategy for British Columbia and confirm adequate support for implementing the updated trails strategy, and to invest CA$10 million in a B.C. Trail Fund to provide reliable funding to community-based organizations that help maintain B.C. trails.
A University of Saskatchewan study showed that outdoor recreation in B.C. accounts for CA$15 billion in economic value to British Columbians yearly, on top of the benefits it provides to community health, reconciliation through Indigenous involvement, and more.
Louise Pedersen, the executive director for the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C., said that B.C.’s outdoor recreation sector had experienced years of underfunding, propelling loss of access, adverse environmental and cultural impacts, and strained resources, including pressure on staff and volunteers.
Last year, the provincial government allocated CA$83 million over three years to recreation infrastructure in B.C. Parks, however, recreation areas outside of parks, which make up 85% of the province, have not seen the same support.
Recreation Sites and Trails BC oversees 15,000 kilometers of trails and 2,200 recreation sites on Crown land with only 50 staff and an CA$8 million operating budget.
Pedersen highlighted the calls to make new and necessary investments that will put British Columbia in a much greater position to develop a world-class trail and recreation system that facilitates broad and inclusive participation in outdoor recreation follows best practices for trail design and environmental considerations, and foster reconciliation through increased Indigenous representation in recreation planning, development, and management.