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BC Parks day pass system fell short in busiest times, says Golden Ears Park operator

Last Updated Oct 8, 2020 at 7:09 am PDT

Edge Peak in Golden Ears Provincial Park. (Courtesy Golden Ears Provincial Park, Facebook)

Most people were not aware of day pass requirements amid COVID-19 in parks, says manager

Keeping people out of controlled, pass mandated areas was not possible, Golden Ears Park operator says

Park operator says visits still increased by more than 30 per cent despite passes amid COVID-19 pandemic

MAPLE RIDGE (NEWS 1130) — After months of being tasked with enforcing the BC Parks day pass system, a local parks operator is speaking out and saying the province needs a better plan for 2021.

Stu Burgess is the operations manager at Golden Ears Provincial Park and spoke with Black Press Media about his frustrations.

“I would like to see something done to try and decrease the volume of traffic coming here next year but what form that would take I just don’t know,” he told the B.C. news organization.

Burgess says many people were unaware they needed a pass and thousands of vehicles arrived over the summer expecting it to be business as usual.

Others came in spite of failing to obtain a same-day registration, hoping they would be allowed in anyhow.

Those factors combined with the size and complexity of trail networks meant overcrowding was difficult to manage and it became impossible to keep people from entering controlled or crowded areas, according to Burgess.

Burgess also told Black Press that the same-day 6 a.m. registration requirements were inconvenient and added to the chaos on the busiest days.

On those busy days, Burgess says he counted up to 3,700 cars — about 2,000 more than allowed under the new provincial restrictions. He estimates park visits to Golden Ears were up more than 30 per cent in 2020.

Meanwhile, hikers and users in Garibaldi Park have complained about the pass system limiting entrance to too few people, given the width of access trails and the overall size of the park, which critics say can carry far more people than the province allowed during the summer.

Similar criticisms have been levelled at the estimation of safe carrying capacity put forward by the province for Cypress and Seymour Parks.

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The province introduced the parks pass system at six BC Parks in late July, in an attempt to control crowds and slow the spread of COVID-19 in the outdoors.

Recently, Dr. Bonnie Henry has continued to encourage British Columbians to spend time in the great wide open, where the virus is far less likely to be transmitted.

“So outside, even if there’s a bit of a breeze, it can disperse all of those droplets quite quickly, which means that you’re very unlikely to inhale enough of the virus that you will get sick yourself. And if somebody’s just passing you on the street, even if they’re close, the risk is very, very low to non-existent,” Henry said on September 15.

NEWS 1130 has reached out to the Ministry of Environment for more information about plans to amend the pilot project before it is potentially rebooted in 2021.