B.C. introduces free day-use passes for six provincial parks

TO help people stay active and safe in six of B.C.’s most popular provincial parks, the provincial government on Wednesday announced it is introducing a new, free day-use pass pilot program.

“People in B.C. love the outdoors, but some of our most popular parks are experiencing a high number of visitors, resulting in crowded facilities, packed parking lots and safety issues, such as parking along the highway,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “This pilot program acknowledges that frequent park users have an important role to play in protecting these important natural spaces and the species that depend upon them.”

The government noted that although parks have wide open spaces, most visitors are often confined to trails that can become crowded in certain areas like viewpoints. Overuse of trails leads to environmental impacts, such as trail widening, soil erosion, altered hydrology and damaged vegetation.

Beginning Monday, July 27, people can get a free BC Parks day-use pass and visit certain areas in six of the busiest parks, including:

* Mount Robson Park: Berg Lake Trail

* Stawamus Chief Park: Chief Peaks Trail

* Cypress Park: upper mountain trails, including the Howe Sound Crest Trail, Hollyburn Mountain Trails and the Black Mountain Plateau trails

* Mount Seymour Park: upper mountain trails including the Seymour Main Trail, Dog Mountain Trail and Mystery Lake Trail

* Garibaldi Park: trailheads at Diamond Head, Rubble Creek and Cheakamus

* Golden Ears Park: all trails and day-use areas

Garibaldi Park will fully reopen on July 27 with the introduction of day-use passes in select areas. Like many parks in the Sea-to-Sky corridor, Garibaldi has seen a significant increase in visitors during the last four years, which has led to overcrowding in some areas of the park.

The free day-use passes are part of a pilot program intended to help BC Parks re-open busy areas and test the passes as a tool to manage overcrowding. The passes can be obtained on the Discover Camping website and will be released daily at 6 a.m. for same-day bookings. The number of passes available each day depends on the park and ranges from vehicle passes for the Berg Lake Trail and Golden Ears Park to individual trail passes in the other parks for morning, afternoon or full day.

“We strongly support BC Parks reopening these six popular parks, while working to manage visitation and conserve nature in the places we love,” said Bruce Passmore, Executive Director, Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, B.C. chapter. “With many people staying home this summer, the demand for outdoor recreation continues to surge, putting more pressure on our park system. We welcome solutions that will help manage overcrowding in certain areas and strengthen our opportunity to protect vital ecosystems.”

Backcountry campers with camping permits are not required to reserve a day-use pass, but should carry proof of their camping permit if they are using one of the select trails that require a pass. Park operator staff will be checking passes upon arrival. Visitors can download the pass onto their mobile device or print it to show at the park.

Further details about the passes required in each park, along with detailed information about BC Parks response to COVID-19 and which parks remain closed, can be found here: www.bcparks.ca

Before heading out, people are advised to visit the individual park page for any changes to available services.

Quick Facts:

* BC Parks is one of the world’s biggest and most diverse parks systems, with 1,035 provincial parks, recreation areas, protected areas, conservancies and ecological reserves covering more than 14% of the province’s land base.

* In 2018-19, Cypress Park had nearly 1.9 million visitors, Mount Seymour Park had nearly 1 million visitors, Golden Ears Park had more than 850,000 visitors, Garibaldi Park had more than 120,000 visitors, Stawamus Chief Park had nearly 600,000 visitors, and Mount Robson Park had more than 200,000 visitors.

* Mount Robson Park is the second oldest park in B.C.’s park system and has the highest peak in the Canadian Rockies. The park’s Berg Lake Trail is a world-renowned backcountry hiking trail.