British Columbia transfers monitoring of recreation sites, trails to environment and parks

Outdoor Recreation Council of BC has been advocating since its inception in 1976 for the consolidation of government responsibilities for parks, trails and recreational sites.

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Outdoor enthusiasts have welcomed a provincial shakeup, announced in Tuesday’s budget, that puts oversight of everything related to hiking, camping and general enjoyment of public lands under one roof.

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“We’re thrilled by this,” said Louise Pedersen, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC. “I think it makes a lot of sense to have everything under one roof.”

The council has been calling for such a merger of these government responsibilities for parks, trails and recreation sites in British Columbia since its inception in 1976.

Until Tuesday’s budget, the Ministry of Forests was overseeing BC’s 1,372 recreation sites/camps and 20,000 kilometers of trails on Crown land, while the Ministry of Environment was overseeing recreation and conservation in the province’s protected areas.

So while two heads are sometimes better than one, it’s also important to remember that too many cooks can spoil the broth.

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“Having the two agencies under one roof and one minister could bode very well,” Pedersen said.

Complaints have increased in recent years that British Columbians and tourists may love BC parks and trails, or at least that demand has exceeded provincial resources for some time now.

Reservations are hard to come by, popular trails and campsites are overcrowded, parking is insufficient, and hikers report seeing more braided trails (made by people leaving main trails to create new routes, destroying ecosystems in the process). fragile).

Trial balloons have been launched to introduce fee-only access and quotas, approval of new trails or infrastructure can take forever.

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Volunteers, meanwhile, have to pick up more litter than ever, which left on the ground can habituate bears to humans, and search and rescue teams are alarmed by the rise in the number of unprepared selfie seekers they had to come. the help of.

Green spaces simply weren’t created to keep up with home building, critics say, and COVID-19 only exacerbated the situation as people went outside during gathering restrictions public.

The new budget didn’t offer more money, which Pedersen says is badly needed to fix the province’s “beloved but broken” recreation system.

“Decades of chronic underfunding have left British Columbia with overstretched trail systems, fallen recreation sites, cultural and environmental damage, a huge backlog of deferred maintenance, too few staff, a lack of capacity to engage effectively with Indigenous governments and volunteer groups who are exhausted by the workload and lack of support,” she said.

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COVID has highlighted the importance of outdoor activity, and from provincial license plates to Facebook posts from provincial residents to friends and family in the rest of Canada that basically say, “don’t wouldn’t you wish you were here”, the natural beauty of British Columbia is something to brag about and market.

The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC directly represents 60 provincial and regional groups, comprising more than 100,000 people, as well as outdoor enthusiasts in general, and although more money is needed for operations and staff, Pedersen has said the merging of ministries has the potential to be an exciting new beginning.

“It could create a solid vision, an ambitious vision of what outdoor recreation could look like in British Columbia,” she said. “I choose to be really optimistic, this (merger) is better, much better.

“We have a few worries and concerns, but overall it could get really good.”

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