A new survey from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society suggests British Columbians are visiting provincial parks more than ever before.
“People are visiting parks more than they ever have and are spending money in local communities when they visit,” said Tori Ball, terrestrial campaigner with CPAWS-BC.
Approximately 80 per cent of respondents to the survey agreed that tourism to BC’s provincial parks plays an important role in local economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 50 per cent of people said they spent more than $100 in or around a provincial park on a recent trip.
At 70 per cent, the majority of respondents said they were likely to travel only within B.C. for the next 12 months.
Almost 90 per cent said they were more or as likely to travel to provincial parks compared to last year.
“We’re already experiencing the consequences of an overburdened park system, with overcrowded trails and campsites being the new norm. This is really frustrating for people trying to follow provincial health orders by spending more time outside and close to home, who are unable to get a day-use pass or camping reservation for their family,” Ball said.
CPAWS-BC is calling for an increase for funding to BC Parks.
“The public health benefits of parks are widely recognized at this point, and the economic returns from investing in these places are well within reach. Parks need to be part of the solution, and now is the time for the province to cash in on these benefits by reinvesting in parks,” Ball said.
The 2019/20 operating budget for BC Parks is $41 million and is expected to drop to $40 million by next year.
The Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia is asking for a budget increase by $60 million to help with rising visitation, more staff hires and upkeep park infrastructure.
Between 2014 and 2019, visitation to BC Parks increased by 23 per cent.
At 644 provincial parks, B.C. has the third-largest parks system in North America, after Canada’s National Parks and the United States’ National Park Service.