COVID-19 propels B.C. Parks to its busiest year ever | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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COVID-19 propels B.C. Parks to its busiest year ever

The need for wide open spaces was apparent through statistics from B.C. Parks this year, which show a big increase in attendance to the province's parks and use of its resevation system due to COVID-19.
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December 17, 2020 - 6:30 AM

British Columbia saw the silver lining of a COVID-19 disrupted year on the province’s park system in 2020.

Although full park attendance numbers aren’t completely in yet, more than 281,000 reservations were made this year on B.C. Parks Discover Camping reservation system as of Dec. 1.

That compares with 254,000 total bookings for 2019, and 231,000 bookings in 2017.

2020 was also an abbreviated season, as parks were initially closed in April and May this year due to COVID-19 shutdowns.

“People are really using the system. It’s quite phenomenal,” B.C. Minister of Environment and Climate Change George Heyman told iNFOnews.ca.

The province processed more than 50,000 reservations before noon the first day the reservation system opened on May 25.

“That’s far, far greater than anything we’ve had to process before. It’s a sign British Columbians are rediscovering their parks, and that’s good for B.C., and good for the parks system,” Heyman said.

Prior to this year, the best single day for the parks reservation system was 28,000 bookings, back in 2016.

"On the opening day of the reservation system that year, we had less than 8,000 reservations by noon,” Heyman said.

Heyman says he expects the interest will continue into 2021, regardless of COVID-19 impact at that time.

“I think people will continue to be reluctant to travel for some period of time, even as vaccinations get underway this week in the province. I also expect as British Columbians find out how beautiful it is at home, they won’t stop doing it, and B.C. Parks is a great place for people to experience our province,” he says.

Parks usage was high throughout the season, Heyman said, and with social distancing rules in effect, extra measures had to be taken to ensure parks weren’t overwhelmed.

“In parking lots and trailheads, we needed people to physically distance, so we had to do some management to people using very popular parks,” he said. A day pass system was set up to ensure those parks weren’t overcrowded.

He said the ministry is currently discussing ways to expand parks and park amenities as well as protected areas, in order to meet future demand.

“I really appreciate how much British Columbians came to know and love their parks  this year. Many visitors were new to the parks and I want to ensure they keep coming back. We’re going to continue to build out our camping and hiking experiences for all British Columbians,” he said.


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