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BC Parks needs cash injection as more people head outdoors locally, say conservationists

FILE - Mount Garibaldi (Source: garibaldipark2020.com)

Conservationists worry about impact of increased visitors at B.C. parks

Parks provide opportunity for economic recovery post COVID-19, say advocates

Many intent to ‘staycation’ at least one more year, survey shows

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — The high visitorship to B.C. parks amid the COVID-19 pandemic shows just how much potential there is for these spaces to be a key component of economic recovery after the health crisis, according to the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.

It notes provincial parks have become a go-to place for British Columbians looking to escape amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Google Mobility data reveals a 150-200 per cent increase in parks visits this year, even as international tourism halted.

CPAWS BC’s Terrestrial campaign manager, Tori Ball, says that means the government needs to start investing more money into a heavily-burdened parks network.

“This past summer has shown that BC Parks are critical to both the public’s mental health and to the economic recovery of neighbouring rural communities. Plus, the need for increased staffing and upgrades to infrastructure have become even more evident with the unprecedented rise in visitors, which to date, is only from increased domestic visitors (BC and AB),” says Ball.

The conservation group’s latest survey shows 79 per cent of respondents agree or strongly agree that parks should be invested in and included in economic recovery planning.

The survey also shows those who are spending time outdoors right now are just as likely, if not more likely, to spend that time in provincial parks over the next year as many plan to continue the staycation trend for at least 12 months.

CPAWS also took the opportunity to ask people how much money they tend to spend on a typical park visit: half said they spend about $100 or more.

“Now is the time to invest in natural places to ensure that people can safely access the outdoors. BC must also prepare now for the next increase of international visitors, who will tip the balance and potentially make some of these places completely unusable due to unmanaged human pressures that could have been avoided,” says Ball.

CPAWS is campaigning for the NDP government to substantially increase BC Parks’ current funding by adding $60 million to its current budget of $40.6 million.