In early November, BC Parks overhauled its online campsite reservation system with the intention of boosting accessibility and cracking down on scams. And then, less a month later, they unveiled the BC Parks’ Future Strategy, a series of measures aimed at improving the overall conservation, recreation, and sustainability within the BC Parks system.
While the document does have its shortcomings, it does create some opportunities through increased funding to backcountry facilities and trails, as well as through the development of new recreational offerings such as backcountry cabins and hut-to-hut circuits. But we’d like to applaud another issue addressed by the Future Strategy: The government’s willingness to increase public engagement.
Engagement strategies include:
- The BC Parks Foundation: “An innovative tool to raise money and community awareness that has been hugely successful in other jurisdictions. Through this foundation, community groups, businesses and individuals can come together and have a voice in BC Parks priorities. This foundation can enable individuals, businesses and groups to promote their own charitable campaigns to benefit BC’s parks. Most importantly, these supporters can be assured that every dollar they contribute will be spent on promoting and and enhancing the experience in BC Parks.”
- Parks Advisory Council: “Charting a path for our parks in the 21st Century is a shared mission. To ensure we make the right choices for the BC Parks system, we require the collective efforts and wisdom of park lovers. A Parks Advisory Committee will serve to provide the Minister of Environment with the opportunity to engage knowledgeable stakeholders on the BC Parks Future Strategy, both in terms of defining its goals and successes, and building a path to achieve them. As part of its mandate, the advisory council will provide feedback on: the long term vision for BC Parks; new and alternative revenue sources consistent with BC Parks brand and vision; redefining our relationship with First Nations; and enhancing community involvement in BC Parks.”
- Community Liaison Rangers: “In order to open the doors to more public participation and volunteerism, the BC Parks Future Strategy proposes hiring Community Liaison Rangers to establish relationships and partnerships across the province with local governments,community groups, businesses, tourism associations, advocacy organizations, school groups, and the public at large. These liaisons will head volunteer committees that will seek out feedback and public participation in the operation of local area parks. These regional liaison committees will focus on development of a shared vision for these local parks and protected areas through volunteerism, public outreach, sponsorships, partnerships, and citizen science. These liaisons and committees will be designed to build enthusiastic local support for park activities. They are expected to be at the vanguard of expanding public participation in park operations.”
As advocates for the backcountry, we are in a unique position to engage with the Ministry of Environment on finding solutions to problems that are affecting our members and the public at large. And as such, we recently sent a letter to the Minister of Environment commending the BC government on their engagement efforts and offering to meet and discuss how our expertise can help further focus the strategy.
We encourage you to read our letter, let us know what you think, and even write a letter of your own. The government is reaching out for the public’s feedback and support, so now is the time to be heard.