Unhappy campers: Critic claims BC doesn't have enough campsites to meet demand

Jan 6 2023, 12:20 am

For the second year in a row, British Columbians who’ve woken up early to snag a¬†camping spot¬†with¬†BC Parks’ reservation website¬†haven’t had to experience the site crashing again thanks to a new reservation site.¬†¬†

However, the issue that still remains is there are still not enough camping sites to meet the demand, Mayor of Clearwater Merlin Blackwell said. 

In the past, Blackwell worked as a park operator and said based on his previous experience with the system, he’s noticed significant¬†progress in the booking system.¬†

Now that the system has been updated, he said, “the issue will be the lack of actual campsites in the southwest corner of BC — there will never be enough for demand.”

Blackwell said in the southwest corner of BC, for example, some areas are not designed to undergo the pressures of parking hassles, garbage, and then wear and tear caused by campers. 

While the land is often bigger than the campground and day-use area, it can not expand “unless you’re starting to reclaim private land or convert more crown lands into provincial parks.”

This season, eight campgrounds are being added to the reservation service, including Gwillim Lake Park near Chetwynd, Yahk Park near the Kingsgate border crossing, and Allison Lake Park near Princeton, the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said. 

It added that since 2017, more than 1,700 campsites have been added to provincial parks and recreation sites. 500 of these sites were added in the Lower Mainland.  

Additionally, demand for camping reservations has increased more than 200% in the last decade which has resulted in increased competition for those booking campsites.

“Under the current Recreation Expansion Program, BC Parks is investing $21.5 million for new campsites, trails, and upgrades to existing facilities,” an email statement to Daily Hive reads.¬†

“More than 40 infrastructure projects got underway in the fiscal year 2022/23. Many of these projects are in various phases of planning, consultation with First Nations governments, or construction, with each one on a separate timeline and path. Details will be shared as they become available in the future.”

Tips to find a campsite

If you still need help finding a site you prefer, Blackwell has some tips like checking the BC Parks site frequently. 

“Just because the reservations are full now, quite often people would cancel a reservation in a week or so out… because weather conditions would change or smoke conditions.”

He added there is also a “dark silver lining” people looking to get outside can take advantage of how long BC summers have been.¬†

“Generally, we’ve had hotter longer summers that stretch into September. And in the beginning of the season start in May or June before the traditional peak calving season.”

You can also find a private campsite in the area you are looking to plan a trip to or “go farther out,” he said.¬†

“This cram-packed issue really ends at Kamloops. So if you’re going east of Kelowna, Kamloops, or north of the Kamloops-Clinton area, your odds of finding a provincial park to spend camping in … are dramatically better than say trying to keep it into the Fraser Valley or the Sea-to-Sky or Vancouver Island area. Until there are more actual campgrounds built, that is always going to be a struggle.”

5,000 users in first 30 minutes of open registration 

Last year eager campers were able to book their spots in March but this year, BC Parks shifted to a four-month rolling booking window. 

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy said this week’s launch was positively met with no website lags and folks able to book a site of their choice.

It should also be noted that one of the primary benefits of a longer booking window (four months) is that demand is spread out further and peak demand days are less impactful,” the ministry added.¬†

Almost 5,000 users were online in the first 30 minutes about over 1,900 reservations were made in that time frame. 

“The peak of site visitation was at 7:02 am with around 2,000 site visitors. Total reservations at the end of January 3 were over 3,600,” the statement reads.¬†

In anticipation of the May long weekend, which traditionally marks the unofficial start of camping season, the ministry expects high volumes to continue later in the month.

To make booking campsites easier for residents, folks are not allowed to bulk purchase reservations, and measures to ensure bots are not booking spaces has been addressed in the updated BC Parks’ camping reservation system, the ministry explained.

“Seeing empty campsites go unused is frustrating ‚Äď ¬†both for campers and BC Parks. We have adjusted our policies and practices to prevent sites from remaining unoccupied.”

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