'It totally defeats the purpose': B.C. park users say day pass system not being enforced
Published Tuesday, August 18, 2020 4:54PM PDT Last Updated Tuesday, August 18, 2020 7:14PM PDT
VANCOUVER -- The effectiveness of a pilot project meant to manage crowds at B.C. parks is being questioned by users, who say they aren't seeing enforcement.
Even though day passes are supposed to be required at certain parks as of late July, some say there's nothing stopping people from coming in, with or without one.
Maple Ridge resident Shea Thomson said the last three times she's visited Golden Ears Provincial Park, nobody has been there to check to make sure people have day passes as they drive in.
"The parking lot's completely jam-packed, full. People everywhere, not social distancing at all," she said, and added the day pass system and the belief there would be monitoring made her feel more comfortable visiting with her three-month-old son.
"It totally defeats the purpose, because you're asking all these people to get up early and get their passes, which a majority of people probably do, but then they go to the park and realize they didn't even have to get up early. They could have just gone."
People CTV News spoke to in the park on Tuesday felt the same. At that time, there was no one checking passes on the way in.
"I had to wake up early and go through the process of getting the pass," said Sam Nugent. "But then there's people who didn't go through that process, and they can just come here and take the spots that are already limited."
Evelyn Taray said her family also made sure to get a pass.
"We were expecting that someone would be at the entrance, to check if we have reservations, but no one did. No one's there," she said. "What's the point of getting reservations online if they're not checking it?"
Currently, day passes are available on the Discover Camping website starting at 6 a.m. for daily bookings. They cannot be booked in advance, or transferred to another time, date or location.
Barry Janyk with the Federation of Mountain Clubs of British Columbia said he's heard about the same issue at other parks.
"Golden Ears is just one example of a system that wasn't really well thought out," he said.
Janyk's group has been getting a lot of feedback online and elsewhere about the pass system.
"In the long term, the only way we're going to alleviate the issues that we're dealing with right now is by putting more resources into the system."
Janyk said the park system has been underfunded, and he'd like to see BC Parks collaborate with outdoor groups such as his on ways to find solutions to make the backcountry more accessible.
Environment Minister George Heyman was unavailable for an interview. In an email to CTV News, the ministry said park operators will be checking for passes, though not always at the same place.
"Sometimes through gatehouses at park entrances or trailheads, other times via spot checks along the trails," the ministry said, and added though there is a potential fine of $115 for not having a pass, the focus during the pilot project is on education.
"As this is a pilot program, BC Parks will address feedback and make appropriate changes prior to any future iterations of a full day-use program," the email said.
Thomson hopes more consistent enforcement will be one of the changes.
"In the four times, five times we've been there, there hasn't been officers walking around at all," she said. "What's the point of the system if you're just going to let everybody through?"
The environment ministry said people can provide input after the project wraps up, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.