OUT ON A LIMB: Our provincial parks are in a sorry state

To me, they are one of the most precious public resources we have

One of the issues that I’m not willing to compromise on is our provincial parks.

To me, they are one of the most precious public resources we have. Along with our national parks.

In B.C., we’ve let our provincial park system deteroriate to an embarrassing condition. I recognize that money is tight these days but I think we can all quite easily imagine that there are other things being paid for by government that could be cut in favour of diverting those funds to our park system.

According to the environmental organization Wilderness Committee, B.C. had 6.3 million hectares of parkland and 378 full time employees. In 2013, we have 13.5 million hectares of parkland and 190 full time employees. Over double the parkland with almost half the staff.

Remember park rangers? You probably haven’t seen one in a long time. They are there but they’re not patrolling B.C.’s parks much. That’s because there’s not that many of them. In fact, there’s only 12 in all of B.C. One thousand parks and 12 full time rangers. You can do whatever you want in a B.C. Park. There’s nobody going to stop you.

Oh sure, we have campground hosts and volunteers but they’re not enforcement positions. Some of them barely enforce noise violations at campgrounds.

This past weekend, local provincial “natural resource officers” patrolled the local recreation sites and found most people complying with sensible camping and forest use. But they also found lots of people not complying, ripping around the woods in ATVs and cutting firewood wherever they want. And these aren’t parks, they’re working forestland.

Which, of course, is probably why they get some enforcement action. Protecting the forest resource for the forest industry. You can see the priority.

Some of those same officers were “deputized” by the B.C. government to assist with park ranger duties, this in addition to their regular duties which, I would put to you, they probably don’t have enough staff for either.

A scathing Auditor General’s report in 2010 found the government was not meeting its goal of conserving the ecological integrity of  parks and protected areas in B.C. Three years later, it certainly isn’t any better.

Citizens are being called on to take action to look after our parks. Locally, we had the Friends of Strathcona Park restoring a trail in B.C.’s oldest park as a statement against use of the park by a private resort in the Bedwell Valley. The trail needed upgrading (I’ve been on it) but BC Parks had decommissioned it rather than spend money on it. The “Friends” action was as much a symbolic statement of public ownership as anything.

Strathcona also has the Strathcona Wilderness Institute looking after the park and educating the public about it. But once again, volunteers are doing what government should be doing.

Campbell River Mirror