The new BC Parks Day-Use Pass Reservation System is a step in the right direction to protect our most trampled parks, like the Stawamus Chief.
Limiting the number of people per day also keeps hikers further apart, which reduces the chances of spreading COVID-19.
So far, hikers The Chief has talked to seem to appreciate getting to enjoy the park with fewer faces in more open spaces, too.
But much more is needed to improve park management in the Sea to Sky.
BC Parks should be listening closely to its boots on the ground — its 18 park rangers.
Former Squamish ranger Sarah Bulford quit her “dream job,” she says, because she couldn’t bear to continue in our “underfunded, understaffed, overpopulated and disrespected park[s].”
For its part, the Ministry of Environment says that public and staff safety is top of mind for BC Parks and that rangers’ reports — which Bulford said are submitted, but largely ignored — are reviewed and taken seriously and are regularly acted upon.
Bulford calls for a restructure of management and funding so that the people doing the work in the parks better inform the decisions made at the provincial level.
She would like to see better funding of rangers so that they all get benefits. It is a tough job, physically and emotionally, she said, and deserves better support.
She also calls for more backcountry education.
“I’d like to see interpreters return to be able to provide courses and learning opportunities in the park,” she told The Chief.
The ministry says that as part of its new Community Engagement and Education program, BC Parks is updating its park visitor education program through the development of videos, social media posts, signage, and online learning modules.
While recently, salary dollars were reallocated to South Coast Region to provide increased staffing support for visitor management in the Sea to Sky, which has resulted in two new summer park ranger positions for the Pemberton and Squamish-Garibaldi areas, Bulford calls for dramatically increased funding to hire more rangers.
“For too long, the B.C. government has cut funding to these jobs,” she told The Chief.
The Ministry notes that with the BC Parks Foundation, it is currently piloting the Discover Parks Ambassador program to bring paid employees and volunteers into parks to provide public outreach, interpretation, citizen science, and more.
The pilot is currently taking place in other parts of B.C., and will be in the Sea to Sky in the months and years ahead.
OK, but the crowds are here, today.
It is not an accident that hordes of people are flocking to our parks. That was the plan.
The province has a strategic plan in place to draw tourists to our parks to boost tourism dollars — read the Sea-To-Sky Corridor Destination Development Strategy, for example, which discusses ways to promote our natural assets to draw tourists.
So, if the province wishes to flood our parks with more people — fine. But in that case, the government must double down on making the park experience enjoyable for those tourists and locals who visit. And, most of all it must protect the parks and wildlife that give us all so much. That all starts with more support for rangers.