VICTORIA — The British Columbia government is introducing a pilot program to control crowds at some of its busiest parks, as residents look to local destinations for recreation.
Beginning Monday, free day-use passes will be available for certain areas of six provincial parks.
The passes will be required for the Berg Lake trail at Mount Robson Park, the Chief Peaks trail at Stawamus Chief Park, upper mountain trails at Cypress and Mount Seymour parks, parts of Garibaldi Park and all trails and day-use areas of Golden Ears Park.
Garibaldi Park, which has remained closed due to the pandemic, will fully reopen Monday with the introduction of the day passes at the Diamond Head, Rubble Creek and Cheakamus trailheads.
Although the parks have wide-open spaces, the government says in a statement that most visitors are confined to trails that can become crowded in areas like viewpoints.
It says overuse can have environmental impacts like trail widening, soil erosion, altered hydrology and damaged vegetation.
"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," Environment Minister George Heyman says in the statement.
The passes will be released each day on the Discover Camping website for same-day bookings. The number of passes available vary.
They range from vehicle passes for Golden Ears Park and the Berg Lake Trail at Mount Robson Park to individual trail passes at other parks for morning, afternoon or full-day bookings.
Bruce Passmore, executive director of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society's B.C. chapter, says the organization strongly supports reopening the parks while working to manage visits and conserve nature.
"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," he says.
Backcountry campers with camping permits are not required to reserve a day-pass but should carry proof of their camping permit if they use any of the trails that require a pass.
Visitors can download passes on their mobile devices and park staff will check them upon arrival.
Some parks remain closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a full list showing park status is available on the BC Parks website.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 22, 2020.