Monck Provincial Park at Nicola Lake. Campsites fill up on weekends

BC VIEWS: The great campground crisis explained

Are commercial operators scalping public campsites to foreign tourists and leaving B.C. folks out in the cold? Not exactly.

Wealthy foreigners snapping up the best properties at premium prices, and then in some cases using them only in prime times.

Occupancy permits trading on classified websites, even rumours of resellers working the passing traffic like rock concert scalpers. The B.C. Liberal government maintains the problem is primarily a lack of supply, and vows to build more.

It’s B.C.’s other real estate crisis, campsite spaces. And mostly it is a summer-time media invention.

An urban radio station poll last week asked if there is something wrong with BC Parks’ online campsite reservation service, and more than 80 per cent of participants agreed there was.

They’re likely misinformed about what is wrong, especially if they’re going by the exaggerated or flat-out false information they’ve heard as this issue was inflated into a national story.

It got going just before the Canada Day long weekend, when popular campsites are always booked solid. Reports claimed European tourists were buying package tours that included BC Parks campground reservations, for which they were paying twice the selling price.

In our 24-hour, social media gossip swamp, this kind of thing gets out of hand quickly. A Salmon Arm company, Canadian Camping Adventures, was named in news reports as working with European travel agencies, buying reserved camp spots for $18 to $38 a night and reselling them for $70.

NDP and Green Party politicians jumped on the bandwagon, shocked that the people’s parks would be exploited like this. One problem: they’re not.

The Salmon Arm couple who built the tour business said the $70 figure comes from adding up all the hotel rooms, camp bookings and activities on the route and dividing by the number of days. The tours are designed around activities and private RV camping facilities, with BC Parks campgrounds often midweek stops along the way.

The business was besieged by threatening phone and email messages, and had to take its Facebook page down after it was inundated with abuse.

The environment ministry pulled together its latest statistics on use of the BC Parks online reservation system. Commercial tour operators account for less than one per cent of bookings, and many of their customers are from within B.C.

In fact, three quarters of all provincial campground reservations are from British Columbians, 14 per cent are Albertans, 2.8 per cent are from elsewhere in Canada and 3.6 per cent are from the U.S. The entire continent of Europe accounts for 6.6 per cent of bookings.

Considering that the B.C. government spends gobs of money on its “Super, Natural B.C.” ad campaign to market our great wilderness to the world, perhaps opposition critics could reacquaint themselves with reality before leaping for cheap media hits.

The reservation system shows plenty of spaces, even at the most popular BC Parks campsites. Weekends are scarcer, and holidays like the upcoming B.C. Day weekend are snapped up as soon as the 90-day window for booking campgrounds comes around.

One trick used by savvy B.C. campers when a long weekend approaches is to book a maximum two-week stay starting on their first day of eligibility, 90 days away. The second week stretches beyond the limit to the high-demand week that is not yet available for booking.

Then they cancel the first week, get a refund for it, and hold onto the coveted long weekend spot.

Environment Minister Mary Polak says creating more campsites in B.C. parks is the ultimate answer. Of course that will attract protests about paving paradise to put up a parking lot.

Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Email: tfletcher@blackpress.ca Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A new 23-storey condo development – which might also house a new White Rock city hall space – is proposed for the current site of 3 Dogs Brewing on Johnston Road, and will be discussed by the Land Use and Planning committee on Oct. 26. (File photo)
Civic centre could be part of new 23-storey White Rock condo tower

Development proposal to be discussed Oct. 26 by council’s land use committee

(Image: CDC)
Fraser Health orders Surrey food-processing facility to close amid COVID-19 outbreak

Staff member at Surrey long-term care facility also tests positive for the virus

The number of new COVID-19 cases in the Fraser South region has doubled in the last two weeks. The number of cases in the Fraser East region has tripled.
Chart: Tyler Olsen
COVID-19 surge in B.C. fuelled by spikes in new cases in Fraser Valley & Surrey area

Number of newly confirmed cases has tripled in Fraser Valley and doubled in the Surrey/Langley area

Lotto winner Erwin Espiritu. (submitted photo: BCLC media relations)
$1M lotto surprise for Surrey dad buying takeout food for son’s birthday

‘When I went to show my son, he said that there was six zeros on the screen, not three’

B.C. provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry gives a daily briefing on COVID-19 cases at an almost empty B.C. Legislature press theatre in Victoria, B.C., on March 25, 2020. (Don Craig/B.C. government)
B.C. sees 223 new COVID-19 cases, now 2,009 active

Two new care home outbreaks in Surrey, Burnaby

The possibility of the Canadian Premier League expanding to the Fraser Valley has been floated online. (Facebook photo)
Canadian Premier League possibly eyeing Fraser Valley expansion

Soccer league looking to add ninth team to the mix, B.C. markets potentially rumoured

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Chastity Davis-Alphonse took the time to vote on Oct. 21. B.C’s general Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 24. (Chastity Davis-Alphonse Facebook photo)
B.C. reconciliation advocate encourages Indigenous women to vote in provincial election

Through the power of voice and education Chastity Davis-Alphonse is hopeful for change

A Le Chateau retail store is shown in Montreal on Wednesday July 13, 2016. Le Chateau Inc. says it is seeking court protection from creditors under the Companies’ Creditors Arrangement Act to allow it to liquidate its assets and wind down its operations.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
Clothing retailer Le Chateau plans to close its doors, files for CCAA protection

Le Chateau said it intends to remain fully operational as it liquidates its 123 stores

The family of Anika Janz, who died after collapsing at school, has launched a GoFundMe to assist with funeral proceedings. (GoFundMe photo)
Family of student who died launches GoFundMe

Rick Hansen Secondary School student Anika Janz, 14, died after collapsing in PE class

Most Read