People climb up a rock face towards the first peak on the Stawamus Chief mountain above the waters of Howe Sound in Squamish, B.C., on Saturday, July 2, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck

Day-use passes needed for 5 busy B.C. parks to ensure safety, protect environment

The second phase of its free day-use pass pilot program rolls out June 22 in five provincial parks

Expanded measures are about to take effect to protect the environment while helping people enjoy some of British Columbia’s most popular and crowded parks this summer.

The Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy says the second phase of its free day-use pass pilot program rolls out June 22 in five provincial parks, four of them on the south coast.

A statement from the ministry says day-use passes at Joffre Lakes, east of Pemberton, Golden Ears near Maple Ridge, and specific trails within Stawamus Chief and Garibaldi parks along the Sea-to-Sky corridor, will address the surge in visitors while protecting the environment.

The day-pass program will also be applied to the Berg Lake trail in Mount Robson Provincial Park in the Rockies.

Day passes must be booked online but will now be available as early as 7 a.m. the day before arrival and the ministry says the passes will no longer be needed to visit Mount Seymour or Cypress parks on Vancouver’s North Shore.

Dawn Carr, executive director of the Canadian Parks Council, says B.C. is trying balance recreation with protection of the environment and “deserves credit for its innovative and responsive approach.”

She says recreational demand within all Canadian parks has grown “exponentially.”

BC Parks says visitor safety is an important consideration.

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park is being opened in partnership with the Lil’wat and N’Quatqua First Nations while the BC Parks Foundation has worked with the parks service to introduce a team of full-time ambassadors offering safety and responsible recreation tips at the other four parks.

Doug Pope, a manager with North Shore Rescue, B.C.’s busiest volunteer search and rescue organization, says his team supports the plan to greet hikers and discuss safety.

“This is a welcome development to the day-pass program and ensures everyone can enjoy a safer experience,” Pope says in the release.

Day use in provincial parks has increased by 34 per cent over the last decade, the statement says.

Twenty-six million day visits were recorded in 2018-19, almost half of them in the south coast region.

BC Parks says it will evaluate the second phase of the day-use pass pilot program when it makes decisions about day passes within the park system.

The Canadian Press

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