UPDATE: Golden Ears Park will still have first come, first serve camping

UPDATE: Golden Ears Park will still have first come, first serve camping

BC Parks backs off 100 per cent reservable sites after public outcry

Golden Ears Provincial Park will retain the current 85 per cent reservable model for the 2019 camping season, BC Parks announced on Thursday afternoon.

With that model, 15 per cent of the sites will be available on a first come, first serve basis.

In September the province announced that the park would go to 100 per cent reservations during peak season – typically from mid-May to Labour Day weekend. A group of Maple Ridge residents started a petition to change the ratio to 50-50 reservable and drive-up sites, and so far it has almost 6,700 names online alone. They are also collecting hard copy petition names, and have another 600 names, approximately.

Angela Dunne-Massey has been a spokesperson for the group of ‘unhappy campers’ who use the park regularly, but are finding it increasingly difficult to successfully navigate the online reservation system, and book sites.

Booking in advance is difficult, because family campers are competing with companies that are re-selling sites, and booking them in bulk, she said. She points out that young people with no credit cards will not be able to book a site, and nor will seniors who lack the technical ability to navigate the online booking system.

The group met with both both Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare and Maple Ridge-Mission MLA Bob D’Eith, and related their problems in accessing the park.

Beare said their appeal made a difference – both MLAs went to Environment Minister George Heyman and asked him to reconsider.

“I grew up here as well, and I understand families wanting to be able to access the park right in their community,” said Beare.

She noted the trend is to more reservations, as many families also want to reserve a campsite and plan their vacation. Cultus Lake is one that has gone 100 per cent reservation, she noted.

“These are parks that are very popular with visitors.”

Retaining the current reservable quota will provide more time to engage park users, campers and stakeholders on how to ensure safe and equitable access to Golden Ears Park, said a press release from BC Parks.

“The number of reservable sites at any given campground or park is driven by consumer demand and in alignment with BC Parks’ mandate to manage the land sustainably. The overwhelming public demand is for increased reservation opportunities. BC Parks adjusts reservable inventory on an annual basis in response to occupancy demand,” it said.

Dunne-Massey called Thursday’s announcement “great news,” but said she will continue to lobby for more campsites to be available on a first come, first serve basis.

“We’re still going to be fighting for 50-50,” she said.

Golden Ears Provincial Park is one of the busiest parks in the province, given its location in the Fraser Valley and proximity to Vancouver.

A solution to satisfy more campers might be to create more campsites in the parks. Beare noted BC Parks created 431 new campsites in 2018, and more could be on the way.

“I know that’s something that he (Heyman) is looking at doing,” she said.

Of the 10,700 campsites BC Parks manages, approximately 55 per cent are reservable and 45 per cent remain available on a first-come, first-serve basis.

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