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Province announces infusion of funding for BC Parks

Promises for more campsites, expanded trails, and management—with details on Sea to Sky parks to come 
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The provincial government has earmarked a record amount of funding for BC Parks over the next several years. Details on how that will impact Sea to Sky parks, like Garibaldi Provincial Park, pictured here, have not yet been announced.

BC Parks will add two new summer employment opportunities in the Sea to Sky this year. 

A planning intern and an administrative intern will be based at Alice Lake Provincial Park in Squamish for 14 weeks, but “they are supporting parks in the region,” a spokesperson for B.C.’s Ministry of Environment & Climate Change Strategy said in an email. 

In total, $4 million has been set aside for the youth employment program with BC Parks and the BC Conservation Officer Service to fund 83 positions. That includes 37 youth positions with BC Parks and 46 with the Conservation Officer Service. 

The jobs will be spread throughout the province with job posts set to go up in the coming days. 

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS), BC Chapter, applauded the additional summer positions. 

“I think it’s great,” said Tori Ball, senior campaigner with CPAWS BC. “I did an intern program with Parks Canada when I was in university and that was a great experience for me. I’m excited that’s an opportunity that more people will have.”

But that’s not all the organization was happy about last week. 

On Friday, April 16, the province announced $83 million in funding for BC Parks over three years for both operating and capital budgets. That will result “in new campsites, expanded trails and strengthened management of the park system, making visits to provincial parks more enjoyable than ever,” according to a release from the ministry. 

The funding includes up to $36 million planned for operations and $47 million for capital investment. From 2014 to 2019, BC Parks saw a 23-per-cent increase in visitors and, in 2020, experienced a record-breaking 270,000 camping reservations. 

As a result, some of the funding will go to new campgrounds, more campsites and amenities at existing campgrounds. This season, 185 sites are being added to BC Parks. While that includes 90 sites in Manning Park, scheduled to open in July 2021, there’s no word yet on where the other 95 might be. 

“The pandemic has brought more people than ever to visit BC Parks so they can safely spend time with family and friends while connecting in nature,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy during a press conference. “Investing in our parks helps secure our magnificent natural legacy so more British Columbians can appreciate its beauty. We are also supporting local businesses and the economy by creating employment opportunities through new investments in park infrastructure.” 

As Ball pointed out, the investment is the biggest the province has seen in parks in three decades—and it’s something CPAWS has long been advocating for. 

“Last year pointed out a lot of the shortfalls and cracks in the system as demand increased throughout the pandemic,” she added. “But it’s really part of a larger trend for outdoor recreation. Demand has been increasing over the last decade or more. The parks hit a breaking point through COVID. It’s great to see the government taking action to improve campsites and trails and get more staff into parks.” 

For her part, Ball, who is based in Squamish, said she would love to see more infrastructure in Garibaldi Provincial Park—and the Sea to Sky’s other busy locations. 

“Alice Lake is somewhere I can’t go in the middle of the summer—even though it’s 10 minutes from me,” she said. “I can’t get a parking spot. It will be great to be able to have more places for people to access, here in the Sea to Sky or spreading out demand [near] the Lower Mainland.”