B.C. to spend $21M on parks improvements after record-breaking year for visitors

Campers return to Vancouver Island provincial parks as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted. (CTV News)

The B.C. government says it will invest more than $21 million to improve provincial parks after a record-breaking visitor season.

More than 3.1 million campers stayed in provincial parks during the 2021 camping season, and more than 260,000 reservations were made on the province’s Discover Camping booking website, according to the environment ministry.

The numbers represent the busiest camping season on record, the province said in a statement Monday.

"This year has been another exceptionally busy season for BC Parks with more people than ever seeking the benefits to their health and well-being that nature and open spaces provide," said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.

The ministry plans to spend $21.5 million over the next three years to improve its parks system, adding new campsites, trails and upgraded facilities.

The investment is part of an $83-million budget increase to the BC Parks operating and capital budgets, according to the ministry.

"Caring for and expanding BC Parks is an investment in a healthy future,” Heyman added. “These new projects provide even more people with the opportunity to explore and experience British Columbia's spectacular beauty and retain the vitally important connection to nature."

Among the improvements coming to provincial parks are:

  • Cypress Provincial Park: improve facilities within the park, including refurbished trails and better backcountry access
  • Garibaldi Provincial Park: develop the loop trail linking Singing Pass to Blackcomb Mountain
  • Golden Ears Provincial Park: parking lot expansion
  • Stawamus Chief Provincial Park: improve existing trails and develop new trails, provide additional parking
  • Cultus Lake: develop the Watt Creek parking lot to improve access to Teapot Hill Trail
  • Miracle Beach Provincial Park: trail enhancements, including a new bicycle flow track and accessibility upgrades
  • Rathtrevor Beach Provincial Park: improve accessibility for day-use trails
  • Sun-Oka Provincial Park: reconstruct paved trails within the park to improve accessibility
  • Babine Mountains Provincial Park: upgrade and reroute existing trails and build new trails
  • Lakelse Lake Provincial Park: improve accessibility to the Twin Spruce Trail and the Furlong Bay Campground

The government says other park improvement projects, including the addition of more campsites, are still in the planning stages

"We are taking strides to ensure our parks are inclusive and welcome for all," said Kelly Greene, parliamentary secretary for the environment. "As well as our plans for more campsites, improved trails and better accessibility, we are working in partnership with First Nations to reflect Indigenous history and culture in our provincial parks and deepen our understanding of connection to the land."