Trail fees in Bighorn Country being discussed as area becomes overrun with campers – City News

by Taylor Braat, Derek Craddock

POSTED AUG 4, 2020 8:39 AM MDT

https://edmonton.citynews.ca/video/iframe/593482582001/SyxzIeNcgb/6177858256001?auto_play_switch=false

CALGARY (CityNews) – The Bighorn Country area has been overrun with campers, garbage, and a lack of social distancing. Now trail fees are being discussed at the provincial level.

The large piece of land near Sundre and Rocky Mountain House is becoming a popular go-to this summer as Albertans flock to nature, one of few reprieves from the city and the reality of COVID-19.

A June report from the Bighorn Backcountry Standing Committee said garbage is being left behind, social distancing isn’t happening, and large groups are camping in random areas.

The Alberta Hiking Association is now proposing camping fees, and it has provincial support.

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Mayors worry park restrictions, day passes are shifting crowds to smaller community areas – CBC News

Closing one park leads to overcrowding at another, warns Port Moody mayor

CBC News · Posted: Aug 04, 2020 7:00 AM PT | Last Updated: August 4

Mayor Richard Stewart says the parking lot to Buntzen Lake is often closed early in the morning, forcing would-be-users to travel to smaller community parks. (Shutterstock)

A pair of Metro Vancouver mayors are worried that restrictions on popular regional and provincial parks are forcing smaller community parks to bear a larger, less physically distanced, load.

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart says the parking lot at Buntzen Lake, which is managed by BC Hydro, will often be closed around 8:30 a.m., when the park isn’t anywhere near capacity.

Stewart says those turned away are then forced to visit smaller parks around the community that aren’t set up to support large crowds.

He also says the province’s day pass system is putting more pressure on small parks because it restricts the number of daily visitors allowed in the more popular provincial parks.

“It would make… better sense to try and spread people out a little bit more rather than making sure there’s almost nobody at the provincial parks,” said Stewart.

“If each of us decides that we’re going to keep our parks absolutely safe, we will end up essentially closing things that should be open as a release valve and other communities will face the effects.”

Port Moody Mayor Rob Vagramov shares many of the same concerns. He says his council is working with BC Hydro and has asked them to allow more vehicles to park at Buntzen Lake, which features a popular beachfront and several hiking trails.

“Overcrowding leads to issues and complaints, which can lead to full-scale park closures,” said Vagramov in a statement on Facebook.

“Due to extreme demand, one park closing down would push demand onto neighbouring parks, which are already stretched to capacity, potentially leading to a domino effect.”

BC Hydro says there are approximately 600 parking spaces at the Buntzen Lake parking lot and about 500 vehicles visited each day over the long weekend, although it adds the numbers vary day to day.

As for how many vehicles it decides to allow into the parking lot, the utility says that all depends on how Buntzen Lake is being used.

If there are more hikers and the beach is empty, it might open the gate and allow more people to enter. But when there are more users on the beach and physical distancing measures need to implemented, BC Hydro limits parking capacity.

“We’re taking a staged approach to reopening our recreation sites that ensures we can adhere to provincial health guidelines and prioritizes the health and safety of visitors,” BC Hydro said in a statement.

Day pass program open to adjustments

On July 27, it became a little bit more difficult to visit six provincial parks in B.C.

The province added a free, day pass pilot project to try and limit the number of people attending the parks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

BC Parks says between 2,700 and 3,000 people got day passes for the six parks in the first four days of the program.

Stewart believes the provincial parks aren’t anywhere near their capacity. “Those parks aren’t as crowded as some of the local parks now,” he said.

BC Parks says that for some of its most popular parks, Golden Ears and Stawamus Chief, they are issuing all daily passes by early-mid morning. (Discover Camping)

BC Parks says managing the number of visitors in popular parks through free day passes keeps parks safe for everyone to enjoy.

“Visitor safety is our priority,” it said in a statement. “[The pilot project] allows us to safely manage the number of people in busy parks to prevent crowding on trails, provide opportunities for physical distancing, and a much more enjoyable experience.”

While BC Parks says the program has overall been well received by the public, it admits that the program is still in the pilot phase and it may need some adjustments.

Both Stewart and Vagramov say they’re hopeful that all levels of government, as well as BC Hydro, can work together to make sure that all facilities are open and available to spread out the crowds.CBC’s Journalistic Standards and Practices|About CBC NewsReport Typo or Error

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You Can Canoe Through A Historic Waterway While Camping At This Ontario Park – from Narcity

Bring your own boat!

If you’re looking for an Ontario hidden gem to visit, say no more. French River Provincial Park is an interconnected waterway of gorges, lakes and rapids waiting for you to paddle through. You can navigate the water to get to your campsite on this historic river used in the earliest years of Canadian history. 

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Whistler mountain biker brings more than just skill – Dan Falloon, Pique News Magazine

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Savour a quintessential Canadian community this summer in Sioux Narrows-Nestor Falls – Winnipeg Sun

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Education experts call for outdoor classes to increase student safety amid COVID-19 pandemic – The Current, CBC

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Statistics show that each year across BC there are approximately 1,700 search and rescue incidents. They involve all types of outdoor enthusiasts, from hikers, skiers and mountain bikers to backcountry travellers, equestrians, quad riders and boaters. Join us to learn what you can do to stay safe and be properly prepared as you head into the outdoors this summer.

https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/2325907305892528139

AdventureSmart is a national program dedicated to encouraging Canadians and visitors to Canada to “Get informed and go outdoors”. AdventureSmart combines online and on-site awareness with targeted outreach to try and reduce the number and severity of Search and Rescue Incidents.

North Shore Rescue is a volunteer community-based search and rescue team. NSR is one of BC’s busiest teams and performs approximately 130 search & rescue operations annually, with some operations lasting multiple days.

Please send your questions, comments and feedback to: outdoorrec@orcbc.ca