5/05/2011

Parking In BC Provincial Parks Free Again

British Columbia has over 800 provincial parks. The parks system is celebrating 100 years of preservation this year, but due to massive budget cuts, there has been little to celebrate. A tiny crack in the bad news emerged recently.

For the past few years visitors have had to pay for parking in some BC parks, but no more.

The pay parking program was rescinded by the Liberal government this week, ushering in the return of free parking in some of British Columbia's favourite places.

I see it as one less hassle, one less barrier, to the enjoyment of our parks. Especially some of my favourite local south island big tree hangouts such as Sooke Potholes, Goldstream, French Beach, and Juan de Fuca. You can check out more parks here.

Cutting parking fees will not affect parks funding, most likely because the whole idea was a fiasco from the ill-conceived start. Pay parking was highly unpopular with the public. The meter boxes, often in remote locations, were repeatedly vandalized. Enforcement was a problem as well, again due to the scattered, remote locations. The program likely made little to no money.
    French Beach
    Parking fees, for some, were a disincentive when planning outings. It would not be a surprise to find that this was the goal when one considers the cuts to provincial park funding over the past decade.

    "The result of a decade of neglect is declining attendance. Park visits have dropped by 25 per cent since 1999 -a decline not seen in B.C.'s national parks. Parking meters installed in 42 popular parks have driven away millions of visitors." - Wilderness Committee  

    The government may not want visitors to see the lack of interpretive programs for school groups and park visitors. They were cut early on, denying critical educational opportunities these programs offered. They don't want visitors to see the lack of staff to prevent things like poaching. And not just for big game, like Big horn sheep.

    Sumallo Grove, Manning Provincial Park
    In the winter of 1996-97 poachers cut and carried away three ancient cedars growing in the Sumallo Grove, which can be found in Manning Provincial Park, two hours east of Vancouver.

    This old growth forest has the most impressive trees in all of Manning park, and is also distinguished as being the farthest eastern reach of the coastal rain forest in British Columbia. The three large cedar stumps can be seen as you pull into the parking lot.

    Since 1996, parks funding has been reduced by 20%, in spite of the system being larger today. I hope free parking is the beginning of our government's return to honouring its commitment to our environment, and parks, and its responsibility to citizens.

    Enjoy the parks and the free parking, then ask Premier Clark why this year's budget slashed another $650,000 as a gift for the 100th Anniversary of provincial parks in BC.

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