The FMCBC requested increased funding and staff for BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC) via a budget submission report to the Province of BC in June. The BC Government, through the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services, sought views of British Columbians on their priorities for the next provincial 2021-2022 budget.
View the full report here to learn more.
Thank you to those club and community members who provided contributions, feedback, and comments to complete the submitted report! The FMCBC would like to thank Rupert Merer who conducted a detailed analysis for the report. His analysis highlighted how BC Park’s focus on “frontcountry” activities is detrimental to backcountry recreation and access.
Highlights of the FMCBC Budget Submission
BC Parks: By The Numbers
BC Parks remains seriously underfunded, despite Canadian Parks Council 2009 research that shows every $1.00 invested in the protected areas system generates $8.42 in visitor spending.
Recent budget numbers for BC Parks:
- 2019/20 operating budget: $41.57M
- 2020/21 operating budget: $40.68M
Recent budget numbers for Destination BC (a provincial tourism marketing organization):
- 2019: $51.5M
- 2020: $51.37M
Note: Destination BC relies heavily on BC provincial parks and protected areas to market the province since their target audience has a desire to connect with nature.
Analysis of BC Parks funding and expenditures from the late 1980s to 2017
- Operating costs (which largely represents personnel costs) fell by over 60% from the late 1980s to 2017, a period when the BC population increased by 66%, and lands under BC Parks’ control more than doubled. Staff numbers dropped by 70% from the early 1980s to the present.
- While drastically cutting personnel and operating expenses, BC Parks has invested heavily in camping and day-use infrastructure and raised camping revenue by 275% (in constant dollars) by more than doubling the cost per camper-night and increasing camper numbers by 30%.
- Contractors (Park Operators) hired to manage BC Parks’ front-country are reimbursed by retaining most campsite revenues and through additional subsidies from BC Parks.
- Overall result: Annual investment in BC Parks’ front-country has continued to rise while expenditure on the backcountry has fallen sharply. Depending on how the cost of BC Parks’ staff is allocated, front-country expenditures are now 4 to 6 times higher than those of the backcountry and parks are less accessible.
FMCBC Budget Recommendations for BC Parks
FMCBC recommended to increase BC Parks annual budget by $60M so that it approaches an adequate level to fulfill BC Parks’ mandate. Increased funding would mean:
- More senior rangers to ensure the environmental values of our provincial park system are protected and to manage, repair, upkeep, or construct park infrastructure, such as outhouses, trails and boardwalks.
- Currently, there is only 1 ranger per 13 parks or protected areas.
- More planning technicians to provide enhanced access by managing the growing demands on our parks. Currently, BC Parks does not have the capacity to pro-actively respond, if at all, to the increased demand for recreation opportunities in BC Parks. There is no funding, for example, to plow roads and parking lots in winter to provide access to provincial parks.
- Many parks still have no management plan and others have outdated plans.
- Despite significant increases in campsites at BC Parks, when the Discover Camping website re-opened on Monday, May 25, 2020, it crashed. According to the Ministry of Environment, the new reservation system experienced extreme demand with 50,000 people accessing the Discover Camping reservation system at 7 am. The massive demand reflects not only that BC residents are passionate about the great outdoors, but also their desire to be outdoors amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Recreation Sites and Trails BC (RSTBC): By The Numbers
The operating budget of RSTBC, at $7M in 2017, is significantly smaller than BC Parks.
- RSTBC manages more than 1,372 recreation sites, 29 interpretive forests, 197 area-based trail networks, and 569 trails that add up to 12,000 kilometers in all regions of BC.
- RSTBC’s 50 staff members are inadequate to maintain and manage the trails and recreation sites (i.e., campgrounds, day shelters, cabins, and fire lookouts) in their districts and depend on volunteers to carry out maintenance of trails and infrastructure.
- In addition, RSTBC has no funding to address road maintenance, resulting in loss of access to popular trails or restricting access to those with high clearance 4×4 vehicles. It would be extremely beneficial if RSTBC had a budget for clearing roads that lead to important trails.
FMCBC Budget Recommendations for Recreation Sites and Trails BC
The FMCBC recommended an uplift of $4 million in operational funding over the next 3 years, allowing RSTBC to increase its staff by 33% (15 people) and increase the operating budget by 30-40%.
The FMCBC and its coalition partners, CPAWS, ORC, and others, will be taking further steps in the coming months to advocate for increased funding for BC Parks and RSTBC. Further updates will be provided at mountainclubs.org.
How can you help?
- Take photos of “the good, the bad, and the ugly” in BC Parks and submit there here. Photos speak louder than words! Here’s what to look for:
The Good: Well-maintained trails, boardwalks and infrastructure (examples of how it should be!)
The Bad: Trails, boardwalk and infrastructure that require maintenance
The Ugly: Parking lots at capacity (or over-capacity) and crowded trails or viewpointsHow to submit:
a) Enable GPS locations on your camera (if this feature is available). The GPS coordinates will allow us to post them on a map of BC (if possible, but no worries if not available).
b) Take a photo (or multiple photos).
c) Submit the photo here with a brief description. Mention the park and trail location.
- Document the state of trails and infrastructure, and note any capacity issues over the summer, fall and winter. Sign up to learn how to complete a trail audit.
The FMCBC will submit your photos and trail audit reports as part of a funding campaign. Subscribe to receive updates about upcoming FMCBC initiatives to request additional funding and staff for BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC.
Thanks to Jay MacArthur, a board member for the FMCBC and Alpine Club of Canada-Vancouver Section, for spearheading the funding campaign initiatives. Special thanks to Monika Bittel, Co-Chair of the FMCBC Southwest BC Recreation and Conservation Committee, for putting the budget submission report together.