Part of the Ministry of Environment, BC Parks is responsible for the development, maintenance, restoration, and improvements to the protected areas system throughout British Columbia. The group recently released their annual report from 2013/14, which includes procedures, accomplishments, goals, projects, and collaborations. Since protected areas are a public trust, the report also discloses pertinent financial information so that investors and the public can see where and how funds are being allocated. Additionally, BC Parks’ volunteers are recognized and other community engagement and sponsorship opportunities are discussed.
As of March 31, 2014, BC Parks managed nearly 15% of the province’s land, much of which has significant natural and cultural values that best represent British Columbia’s history. This land accounts for more than 14 million hectares and is governed by the Ecological Reserve Act, the Park Act, and the Protected Areas of British Columbia Act. In an effort to provide strategic direction and guidance on a consistent basis, each park must have its own valid management plan. 70% of the protected areas had a complete management plan in 2013/14, up 3% from the previous year’s report. Plans that are no longer adequate or that haven’t been updated within the past 5 years are not considered valid and do not count. BC Parks also provides a toolkit, complete with guidelines and templates, in order to assist the planners and partners that put these plans into place. Uniformity amongst the plans helps to ensure that they are done correctly and efficiently.
BC Parks has been in existence for more than 100 years and the group strives for excellence, constantly improving the parks system through smart conservation management practices. Upholding a high level of ecological integrity is important to the group and in order to reach that they practice proactive stewardship. Monitoring climate change is one of the ways in which BC Parks accomplishes this. Much of the protected land is near water and is considered to be marine protected areas. These require special attention as the constantly changing water levels can cause erosion and flooding, which affect plant and animal habitats. Coastlines are another challenging area as tide changes and storms alter the shoreline. Longtime monitoring of these areas is conducted so that trends and other valuable information can be seen and studied and possible future struggles can be prevented. Invasive species removal is another way BC Parks practices ecological integrity.
BC Parks also shares stewardship in maintaining the protective lands. They often partner with First Nations, a native group that shares many of the same goals and objectives. From creating management plans to work on remodels and planning events, these collaborative efforts let First Nations, the public, and many other groups have a say in the parks and keeps them near and dear to everyone’s hearts. This is especially important because BC Parks relies on volunteers and charitable donations in order to operate. Outstanding volunteers and partners are recognized each year by BC Parks at a special celebration and also in their annual report. Volunteer Strategy is a program BC Parks introduced in 2012 in an effort to improve the volunteer experience. In 2013/14, $240,000 was invested in the support of community and volunteer projects and the favor was returned: The Park Enhancement Fund has received over $1 million from donations and partnerships over the past six years. BC Parks makes it easy to give through bequests, planned giving, and financial securities and a tax break for such gifts is given to donors.
BC Parks also depends on park visitors. One of the group’s goals is to provide exceptional opportunities for outdoor recreation and social interactions. Visitors to the park also supply BC Parks with income. In 2013/14, over 21,300 visitors came through these protected lands resulting in revenue of $18.7 million from permit sales and recreation user fees, such as camping and boating. In an effort to attract more visitors to the parks and ease the hassle of making reservations, updates and improvements were made to the BC Parks Discover Camping Reservation Service website. This is important because this site brought in more than 119,000 electronic reservations in 2013/14, up 12% from the previous year. A user-pay service, Discover Camping also offers a call center for those who prefer to pick up the phone.
Enhancing the visitor experience is an ongoing project for BC Parks and park employees. Attendance has been up for the last three years and BC Parks and Park Facility Operators (PFOs) are busier than ever addressing visitors’ needs. PFOs maintain and improve the facilities in the park(s) they manage and tend to the needs of their guests. 22 PFOs worked together to operate 251 parks in 2013/14. These contractors work hard ensure their parks meet BC Parks’ high level of quality standards. Upholding these standards includes recognizing and removing or fixing safety hazards, such as damaged and rotting trees. BC Parks and PFOs have been busy upgrading park facilities, investing nearly $60 million over the last five years. A couple of improvements that were completed in 2013/14 include a $69,000 boardwalk upgrade at Naikoon and the $747,000 reconstruction and expansion of the campground at Mabel Lake. BC Parks is continuously involved in numerous restoration projects and is careful to minimize the carbon footprint and greenhouse emissions in all of their improvement projects using “green” techniques, such as the utilizing solar energy and erecting new buildings on top of the previous building’s footprint.
BC Parks is committed to connecting with the public and community engagement is another way they can accomplish this. They collaborate with many other groups to accomplish this and host many recreational end education events at parks throughout the year. 60,000 visitors attended a centennial celebration at Mount Robson Park when it turned 100 years old in 2013. Almost 2,600 kids and their families participated in the 80 education sessions during the Learn To Fish Program, created to bring awareness to the sport of fishing. Other projects include Get Outside BC, a youth leadership project, and the BC Parks Passport Program where visitors get a passport and can collect stamps to earn collectible pins and other prizes by checking out visitors’ centers and exploring parks.
BC Parks also engages visitors through their website, which received 3,471,857 visits in 2013/14 (9,511 / day),
Website visitors can also see the approved management plans, find information on planned giving, see volunteer opportunities, and check out upcoming events. Social media users will find relevant links on the website for Facebook, park blogs, and photos. The BC Parks Facebook page currently (April 2016) has over 13,000 “likes,” up from just 5,500 in March 2014.
The complete BC Parks’ annual report from 2013/14 can be viewed by the public on their website, http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/bcparks/.
- Source BC Parks. BC Parks 2013/14 Annual Report. 37 p. Available at : https://bcparks.ca/research/year_end_report/bc-parks-annual-report-13-14.pdf?v=1461189563179 [Accessed 03/2021].