The province's student ranger program is heading into its second year, giving 48 students the opportunity to spend the summer working for BC Parks. Twelve teams of four students will be stationed at parks around the province.
Yet despite being home to extraordinarily busy parks, the province has opted to move last year's only Sea to Sky team to the Sunshine Coast.
"We leave it up to each region to determine where the crews are based out of," said Stuart Walsh, a safety and compliance officer with BC Parks. "This year they have made the determination to move the crew from Alice Lake to the Sunshine Coast."
Walsh said that despite the move to Sechelt, he anticipates student rangers will have "a strong presence in the Sea to Sky corridor." A team will also be stationed out of Mount Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver, he noted.
Public education—around everything from backcountry safety to backcountry ethics—was a key component of the Alice Lake Provincial Park team's role.
Given the massive popularity of parks such as Garibaldi Provincial Park and Joffre Lakes Provincial Park—especially with relatively inexperienced hikers—many view outreach as especially important in the region.
As reported in Pique last week, Cpl. Mike Hamilton of the Pemberton RCMP warned that he believes a hiker will be struck on the section of highway near the entrance of the park if "drastic action is not immediately taken," in a letter sent on Aug. 13, 2018 addressed to road contractor Mainroad Group and shared with the province. (The letter was made public after a Freedom of Information request by outdoor enthusiast Steve Jones.)
Walsh said that despite their new location student rangers would be active in the corridor. "Absolutely, we will be spending time in the Joffre Lakes' of the world," he said.
Speaking of the merits of the student ranger program, Walsh said it seeks to foster "another generation of park staff and park ambassadors" and help the agency to tackle important projects and objectives.
To qualify, one must be between the ages of 18 and 30, and have been a full-time student in the past academic year with the intention of returning to full-time studies in the fall.
For Stephanie Pawluk, a Squamish resident who took part in the program last year, it was the opportunity of a lifetime.
"Honestly, I think it's the best possible way a student can spend the summer," said Pawluk. "You're gaining valuable government work experience, you get to be outside for the entire summer, and you get to explore some of B.C.'s beautiful parks that you might otherwise not have time to go see."
Pawluk served as a team lead out of the Alice Lake office and said she gained a lot of experience, from promoting a good backcountry ethic with BC Parks visitors, to building a fence at Callaghan Lake Provincial Park. A highlight was a 10-day trip to the Sunshine Coast, where her team helped out with a long-term ecological monitoring initiative, working in coordination with a BC Parks biologist.
For the 2019 season, the 12 teams will be stationed in Prince George, Fort St. John, Terrace, Bella Coola, Williams Lake, Manning Park, Cranbrook, Kamloops, Victoria (Goldstream Provincial Park), Black Creek (Miracle Beach Provincial Park), North Vancouver (Mount Seymour Provincial Park) and Sechelt (Porpoise Bay Provincial Park).
The program runs from May until August, with crew members making between $17.03 and $18.32 per hour and crew leads making between $22.58 and $25.47 per hour. It is financed through the proceeds from the sales of BC Parks specialty license plates and a 50-per-cent wage-match from the Federal Government's Summer Work Experience program.
BC Parks is accepting applications to the program up until Feb. 24. Learn more here: www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/employment/student-ranger/.