(Files by Brendan Pawliw-MyPGNow)
BC residents can now reserve campgrounds and recreation sites for the 2020 season.
This morning (Monday), the province’s Discover Camping reservation system went back online but crashed for a period of time due to the pent up demand.
George Heyman is the Minister of Environment and Climate Change…
“We expected there would be very, very heavy traffic at the start, we do have some technical issues but lots of people are getting through and we encourage people to keep trying. It’s going to settle down and you’re going to make your reservation.”
People can now reserve a site two months in advance instead of four, a temporary measure to spread out the demand this summer.
“Everybody knows that our summer is going to be different but people still want to spend time in nature and the outdoors and we heard a lot from people wanting to keep access to British Columbians during this pandemic,” added Heyman.
Heyman said parks and campgrounds will only be available to BC residents this year due to the pandemic, following the lead of other provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba.
“We’ve seen other provinces that have done the same thing closing their parks to everyone in those places so it was an easy decision for us to make.”
According to the province, most provincial campgrounds and recreation sites open on June 1st along with more parks for day-use activities.
New reservations can only be made by B.C. residents as people can now reserve a site two months in advance of their arrival date instead of four – a temporary measure to spread out the demand during the busy summer months.
On May 14th, BC opened up most sites for day use only, when asked why not combine the two announcements together, Heyman shot back with a very simple answer.
“We wanted to phase it in, we didn’t want what often happens on a May long weekend is a significant use of parks and parties. We weren’t yet set up to ensure the sanitation procedures and the staff in place to handle overnight but we wanted British Columbians to have a place to go.”
“We opened between 700 and 800 parks for day use, that was very well received we had very few incidents but we said from the very beginning that we were going to open for camping on June 1st and today is a big day on the way to that with the reservation system.”
The majority of campgrounds and recreation sites open on the same day Ottawa allowed National Parks and Historic sites to resume without camping.
Heyman stated the announcement from the federal government didn’t really influence their decision.
“I think we would have picked June 1st regardless, we didn’t want to keep parks closed any longer than necessary and our staff community with national parks as well and I think there was a good consensus there.”
To allow physical distancing, fewer sites will be available in some campgrounds, there may be some changes to services and communal facilities, and some campgrounds will open at a later date. Hot springs, back country communal cabins, and campgrounds that require visitors to use shared cooking facilities will remain temporarily closed, along with group campsites.
“Not every trail will be open as some of them are too narrow. Pay attention to the signs, follow the advice on them and if you’re approaching on a trail stay to the right and give them two metres.”
As part of the ongoing campsite expansion program, the Province has also added 180 new campsites to BC Parks and recreation sites.
Since 2017, more than 1,200 campsites have been added.
Most existing reservations for dates after June 1 will be honoured, so campsites in popular campgrounds may already be booked. Some reservations may need to be cancelled due to reduced capacity at certain campgrounds.