The province’s pilot program, intended to help BC Parks reopen busy areas and manage overcrowding, launches on Monday, meaning it could be hard to enjoy some of what the region has to offer at a time when people are looking for some outdoor therapy amid a heatwave.
Many of the Lower Mainland’s beaches and trails have seen large crowds of people looking to get outside amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The program’s goal is to curb demand previously seen at some of B.C.’s most popular parks, including Cypress, Garibaldi, Golden Ears, Mount Robson, Mount Seymour, and Stawamus Chief.
Heading out to a local trail today? You might need a pass. Pilot program to stop overcrowding on trails in 6 #BCParks begins today. You now need free day-use pass for Chief Peaks Trail at Stawamus, trails at Golden Ears Park, & select trails at Cypress, Mount Seymour, & Garibaldi
— Monika Gul (@MonikaGul) July 27, 2020
Parks notes there are 868 provincial parks, but popular parks see high visitor volumes, overcrowding on trails and in facilities, and packed parking lots, which could lead to people parking along highways.
“These environments do not easily allow for physical distancing and large numbers of visitors also have increased environmental impacts,” BC Parks’ website reads. “The trail systems within these parks can become crowded at narrow pass points and view points which can lead to congestion and difficulties maintaining physical distancing.”
And it’s more important now than ever to help people physically distance, as B.C.’s COVID-19 case numbers — much like many other parts of the country and globe — climbs again.
BC Parks’ new reservation system also comes at a time when demand for local, quick getaways are higher as travel is restricted and as the temperature soars into the 30s around some areas.
Another scorcher today, followed by a subtle cool down through midweek. Scattered showers will help to 'clear the air' towards the end of the week. @NEWS1130 @BT_Vancouver @CityNewsVAN pic.twitter.com/q5G2sL27rP
— Russ Lacate (@NEWS1130Weather) July 27, 2020
Demand for the outdoors is already quite evident. On Sunday, the parking lots at White Pine Beach, Belcarra National Park, and Sasamat Lake filled to capacity before even 8:00 a.m.
A few hours later, Lynn Headwaters Regional Park was also jam packed.
You’ll be able to reserve a free day-use pass on the BC Parks website starting at 6:00 a.m. each day. The passes aren’t required for overnight campers — where that’s allowed — as those people will require a reservation or permit.
There is a vehicle pass and a person pass as part of the day-use pass pilot program. People looking to snag a day-use pass will also need to specify whether they plan to be on trails in the morning or evening, or all day.
“Day-use passes can only be reserved online through Discover Camping and cannot be reserved through the call centre,” the province says. “By distributing passes through a single portal, we can ensure daily visitation numbers are manageable and create a safer, less crowded environment for park visitors.”
Passes are not available between midnight and 6:00 a.m., it adds.
Limits on park capacity are broken down by BC Parks as follows:
- 50 (vehicles) for Mount Robson – Berg Lake Trail parking lot;
- 500 for Cypress – Howe Sound Crest Trail;
- 300 for Cypress – Hollyburn Mountain trails;
- 500 for Cypress – Black Mountain Plateau trails;
- 800 for Mount Seymour – upper mountain trails;
- 250 for Garibaldi – Diamond Head trailhead;
- 340 for Garibaldi – Rubble Creek trailhead;
- 150 for Garibaldi – Cheakamus trailhead;
- 400 for Stawamus Chief – Chief Peaks Trail;
- 970 (vehicles) for Golden Ears – South Beach day use parking lot;
- 100 (vehicles) for Golden Ears – Alouette boat launch parking lot (trailers);
- 190 (vehicles) for Golden Ears – East/West Canyon parking lot;
Joffre Lakes, which is the province’s most infamously overcrowded hiking destination, remains closed and is not included in the pilot project.
The province says the pilot program will be monitored and evaluated as the weeks progress.
Some critics have suggested the day pass program is doomed to fail, adding people should be able to reserve a pass the night before in order to allow more time for planning, as search and rescue teams recommend.
The province has acknowledged the 6:00 a.m. reservation “will be a tight turnaround for some people,” however, it blames “technical limitations” that restricts it to issuing passes for the same day.
You can reserve a pass here.