Just like when you see a review of a new product or technology launch, we’re providing our take on the newly launched day-use pass at BC Parks. It’s part of our role and mission as the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC to protect and maintain access to BC’s backcountry. And, we will continue to advocate on your behalf to provide reasonable and safe access to non-motorized outdoor recreation.

Our concerns: Feedback we’ll be submitting to the BC government

Lack of user group consultations
To manage overcrowding on trails during the pandemic, the Province of BC introduced free day-use passes on Monday, July 27.  Although the passes are part of a pilot project, the FMCBC is concerned there was no consultation with user groups before the system was introduced.

BC Parks was planning a consultation process about Joffre Lakes Park, but this has not been started. Maybe this will happen later this year?

Costs to implement the day-use pass and capacity limit system
FMCBC members are concerned about the cost to implement the pass system, including funding or reallocating parks staff or hiring contractors to check passes or work at the gates.

We also question whether the limits and gates are warranted on most days. Is the capacity higher on some days when compared to others? Is there a way to encourage people to visit on non-peak days? What factors are considered when adding capacity limits on trails?

Gates at a provincial park with the new day passes (submitted by Jay MacArthur)

Gate at Mount Seymour Provincial Park with the new day passes (submitted by Jay MacArthur)

Lack of consideration for alternate options
The new day-use passes, and capacity limits, have been implemented at BC’s six busiest provincial parks. To protect and enable access at these trails, will other crowd-management solutions be considered?

The FMCBC met with BC Parks in June and suggested they implement one-way trails at some parks to allow for physical distancing. For instance, Mount Seymour and Black Mountain hikers could go up the hiking trail and down the ski run, or hikers on the Squamish Chief trail could go up to the second peak and down the backside gulley to Olesen Creek.

We do agree that the Garibaldi Lake and Black Tusk area does get very busy on sunny weekends; however, here are some alternative options for BC Parks to implement:

  • Limiting parking overall and encouraging carpooling or shared travel options (those that allow physical distancing measures).
  • Reserving parking for guests that have backcountry campground reservations.

Reconsider or adapt some of the trails on the day-use pass list

Elfin Lakes trail
Did you know the Elfin Lakes trail is actually an old road? The trail can handle a higher usage than other trails. Although the parking lot is not huge, the rough road to travel to the trail is a deterrent to many users. The FMCBC does not understand why there are restrictions at some trails and would like further explanations about why each trail makes the list and requires passes.

Cheakamus Lake
Some trails can accommodate higher levels of users, but the parking lot can become a barrier. The parking lot at Cheakamus Lake is smaller, an obvious barrier to users. Could BC Parks consider a reserved parking system? This would help backcountry hikers plan their trip, but we also realize there are costs to implement too.

Additionally, is the day-use pass required on all days? We often see fewer visitors at the Cheakamus Lake trail on weekdays. Will hikers consider travelling on non-peak days if no pass is required?

Increase funding and staff at BC Parks
BC Parks needs funding for trail repairs. The Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC has been continually advocating for increased funding and staff for BC Parks.

In the past few years, BC Parks has invested 2x more into drive-in campgrounds – that are managed by contractors – than backcountry recreation. Although we are seeing increased traffic and tourism at BC parks (and the accompanied wear and tear), the money is being invested elsewhere or significantly reduced over the last 20 years.

The FMCBC recommends that BC Parks increases funding for staff and resources. At the same time though, the money being spent on gatekeepers would be much better spent on replacing blocked culverts and fixing unsafe trails and bridges (those loose rocks are hazardous and can break hiker’s ankles). Park rangers and contractors could repair trails rather than work as gatekeepers at the trails.

The FMCBC also recommends that BC Parks invest into building new trails to accommodate increased traffic and tourism and to help disperse crowds.

What’s next?

Get involved
We welcome your comments on the current day-use pass system. What’s working? What’s not? Do you have other possible feasible solutions?

Since the passes are temporarily part of a pilot project, we encourage you to comment below and send us your thoughts at fmcbc@mountainclubs.org. You can also contact your local MLA to request that the government properly funds BC Parks and works with the public to seek viable solutions.

The Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC advocates for and supports enhanced access to trails and non-motorized recreation in BC. Help support our efforts and become a member, join a Committee, or make a donation today.