Several hikers are frustrated with BC Parks’ new day-use pass system for popular trails near Metro Vancouver, because they say it makes trip planning harder and can lead to danger on the trails.
The new system was implemented on July 27 to control crowding during the pandemic. Reservations open at 6 am for same-day hikes, which some hikers say is too late for longer trips.
“It’s just not feasible for somebody who wants to get out into the backcountry,” said Kristine Krynitzki, who started Hikes Near Vancouver. “Some of us want to go for sunrise, and 6 am is not early enough.”
For example, hiker Danika N. told Daily Hive she had to leave at 5 am to hike the 45-kilometre Berg Lake Trail in Mount Robson provincial park last year. By 6 am, she was out of cell range.
“We are not trailrunners, so we need more time to complete,” she said.
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Krynitzki added trip planning is a big part of staying safe in the backcountry, and if somebody logs in and their first-choice hike is sold out, they may opt for plan B, which they haven’t researched as thoroughly.
“You don’t want to be pushing these new people to a sport that’s really good for them into inaccessible trails or tempt them to visit places they’re not prepared for,” Krynitzki said.
Sandra Riches, who is the executive director of AdventureSmart, an organization that strives to reduce the number and severity of search and rescue (SAR) calls in BC, agrees.
“AdventureSmart really believes in planning your adventure before you do it. That means days ahead, or weeks or months sometimes,” she said.
Both women appreciate BC Parks’ intentions to reduce crowding on trails, but they think the day-pass system needs some changes to better serve hikers. For Krynitzki, even opening reservations the night before would be better.
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Some park users have also been plagued with technical difficulties. Danika told Daily Hive she booked a day pass for Garibaldi’s Cheakamus side at 6 am on Sunday, August 9, and didn’t receive the confirmation email until nearly 3 pm.
“Good thing I knew the passes show up under my online profile, so I just took lots of printscreens,” she said.
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A spokesperson from the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy told Daily Hive the day-pass program is a pilot, and they’ll be incorporating feedback sent to [email protected] into future iterations of the system.
“We recognize 6 am is a tight turnaround for some people,” the spokesperson said.
The day passes are completely free, and the reservation system was brought in for hiker safety during the pandemic and to help address environmental impacts from overcrowding. Too much traffic on a trail can lead to trail widening, soil erosion, damage to natural vegetation, and more mud, the spokesperson said.
The Ministry is also keeping an eye out to see how the day-pass system is affecting traffic at smaller trails.
“Definitely they can’t handle the number of people that a developed trail can with an outhouse and parking lot,” Kristine said, referring to less popular spots that aren’t part of the day-pass system.
But nevertheless, she said BC is blessed to have many great outdoor spots and hopes all hikers this summer can find somewhere beautiful to enjoy.