Closures remain as camping season begins in B.C.

Grab Your Tent: Signs outside Kokanee Provincial Park, near Nelson, B.C., show that the park is closed on May 13. Kokanee Provincial Park is one of the BC Parks locations that has reopened to day-use and camping in accordance with Phase 2 of BC’s Restart Plan. (Photo by Shelby Daughton/The Press)

BC Parks officially reopened some provincial park campgrounds to users today in accordance with Phase 2 of BC’s Restart Plan, after opening for day-use on May 14, but other provincial parks are not open for camping just yet.  

Parks in more populated areas will remain entirely closed. This includes parks near Vancouver, such as Cypress Provincial Park and Mount Seymour Provincial Park. 

Taryn Eyton is a Vancouver resident who runs an outdoor adventure blog called Happiest Outdoors.  

She believes that the reopening of parks has been marred by missteps in announcements from the provincial government and BC Parks. 

“What was in the fine print, that wasn’t really obvious to a lot of people, was that the parks near the major population centers didn’t open,” said Eyton.  

Eyton also believes that the announcements were not clear about backcountry camping, which is not planned to open in many popular parks. 

Eyton initially felt that the March closure of B.C.’s provincial parks was the right call. 

“We all didn’t really know how things were transmitted [and] how vulnerable people were, indoors versus outdoors, said Eyton.  

Later, Eyton became less in favour of the closures due to information about low outdoor transmission rates. Eyton says that getting outdoors in provincial parks could have helped people get through self-isolation 

Eyton acknowledges that there are challenges to reopening parks such as sanitation and safety. 

“Sanitation when camping is obviously a lot more challenging than sanitation at home, so I could see the challenges there and the hesitation towards opening those kinds of facilities,” said Eyton. “I also see the challenge with search and rescue [groups] not having enough protective equipment to carry out rescues, and not wanting to encourage people to take risky backcountry trips or wilderness trips.” 

Despite this, Eyton says park users can balance their use of parks and wild spaces by taking low risk trips and being responsible for their own sanitation. 

Organizations that use BC Parks like the B.C. Mountaineering Club (BCMC) have created clear guidelines to ensure the safety of their members during reopening. 

Chris Ludwig, the president of the BCMC says that their reopening guidelines were created by a committee which includes lawyers, health professionals, and strategic planners in collaboration with the BCMC’s climbing team.  

All members who want to go on trips must take the B.C. Self-Check Tool for COVID-19 and post their results on the trip forum. 

New restrictions also include a maximum of six people on any planned trip, no carpooling with non-household members, no touching any non-household members, and no activities that required shared equipment or surfaces. 

“Our committee meets every two weeks to reassess the situation, and we just simply follow the lead on government guidelines,” said Ludwig. “We’ll allow those kinds of shared activities once the government says it’s okay to do so.” 

Anders Treiberg runs an RV travel blog with his wife Liz called We Discover Canada 

Treiberg and his wife, who enjoy travelling in their RV around North America, are excited about the reopening. 

“I feel really good,” said Treiberg. “I think everybody’s pretty excited about getting out.” 

Despite the excitement, Treiberg has taken issue with the way that campsites are being booked. He says sites are being booked only two months in advance. He was hoping to book a spot at an RV campground in Osoyoos for September when the online booking system opened. 

That means we could only book that park on the second of July, because it’s only two months ahead,” said Treiberg. “That makes it very frustrating because why not [open] all the campsites up now, and whoever wants to book, can book. 

Treiberg has sent BC Parks an email voicing his concern.  

I also see the challenge with search and rescue [groups] not having enough protective equipment to carry out rescues, and not wanting to encourage people to take risky back country trips or wilderness trips. – Taryn Eyton 

If you’re wondering how to make the most of open parks and campgrounds, while also staying safe, Eyton has some advice for you. 

“[Make] sure that you’re doing your best to be nice to Mother Nature and other people,” said Eyton. 

She also encourages people to make sure that the place they want to go is open and to have a back-up plan if the place they’re going too is crowded when they arrive.