With files from Simi Sara
With a long weekend upon us you can bet that our provincial parks will be packed full.
Alongside a lot of people who will be camping this weekend, there will be a large number of people who wish they were camping – but were unable to reserve a spot on the BC Parks online reservation system.
This is a story that we’ve talked about in the past with Mike Smyth with the Province newspaper, who broke a story this morning about BC travel companies block booking campsites in provincial parks and reselling them to European tourists.
All the while, unhappy B.C. campers face a “sold-out” summer at their favourite campgrounds.
LISTEN to the full interview:
Legitimized scalping of taxpayer-funded provincial campgrounds?
Sam Waddington is a Chilliwack city councillor who’s been critical of the government’s Discover Camping website. He joined Simi Sara to talk about this latest revelation.
Waddington also operates Mt. Waddington Outdoors in Chilliwack so he bring insight form an industry perspective as well.
“I do struggle with this. I love tourism, I think it’s great for the BC economy and I certainly encourage creative ways to support that.”
Waddington says he would’t have a problem with companies reserving spots if there wasn’t a shortfall, but it is a a problem because there are British Columbians who can’t access their own parks because of what he calls a scalping program that’s been legitimized.
Because of that, he suggests it may be time to look at balancing the needs of tourism as an industry, and recreational access for BC taxpayers.
“We deal with it with forestry, there’s that balance between recreation and logging and then all other capacities in the fishing world as well between commercial harvest and recreational. And I think maybe we’re coming into that position where maybe campsites are that next limited asset that we’re trying to balance between who in industry gets first say, and who in recreation in just general British Columbian population gets a say.”
Growing demand means it will only get worse
Demand for these campsites is huge and it’s growing, says Waddington.
He thinks that the system is also problematic for tourists and residents who may want to be more spontaneous and wander around, partly because some campsites don’t hold back spots for drive-up bookings, but have switched to a 100% reservation system.
“I think we’re kind of habitualizing a certain kind of behavior in terms of this preplanned, prebooked vacation mentality where I think backcountry should always be spontaneous. I think that our wild places should be able to be explored truly, and not just planned and booked …and have every detail preplanned.”
He says it defeats the purpose for many people and goes against the reason why many people want to go camping – to get away from the rigidity of day-to-day life.
How to fix it?
It seems the B.C. government isn’t interested in dealing with the issue, and Waddington admits they’re in a challenging position as it could be an expensive fix.
He adds it’s time for taxpayers to place a value on the parks beyond the camping fees, and determine if they’re willing to further subsidize parks.
He also points out most of B.C. is Crown land and though it’s designated for industry, he thinks it’s an old way of looking at those places.
“In terms of aesthetic value and enjoyment value for residents here, I think we’re moving into an era when tourism plays a much larger role (than) our dependency on exported softwood lumber or exported natural resources. Instead of exporting the beauty of British Columbia, I think those are transitions most British Columbians would welcome. “