EDITORIAL: Time to expand campground offerings

Recent criticism of the reservation system suggests more attention to the coveted green getaways is warranted.

Peninsula residents are hitting the highways in camper-topped pickups, motorhomes and cooler-heavy cars – the ultimate sign summer has arrived.

It’s camping season, but those hoping to get away to the great outdoors without a reservation might be out of luck.

Demand for campsites continues to grow in B.C., and residents from all over Metro Vancouver are quick to fill up those located within a few hours’ drive.

In the last five years, use of BC Parks’ online reservation system has jumped 80 per cent, according to the province.

Recent criticism of the system – including that travel companies are block-booking campgrounds and re-selling to far-away travellers – suggests more attention to the coveted green getaways is warranted.

Metro Vancouver’s population has ballooned, yet the number of campsites has not. Indeed, opportunities to pitch a tent on Crown land that doesn’t take an overnight trip to get to have fallen flat.

Making matters worse is the number of private operators who have gotten out of the camping game because of the soaring cost of real estate.

So for those who aren’t lucky enough to score a reservation – and whose idea of camping isn’t firing up the Coleman grill in a Wal-Mart parking lot – what’s the alternative?

It’s time the provincial government makes a greater investment in BC Parks and expand campground offerings.

Studies abound about the benefits of communing with nature, including research that shows that young people who experience nature are happier and healthier.

Camping is also a way for busy families to bond without the constant interruptions of our digital world. And, such trips offer learning experiences along with opportunities to exercise and develop new skills.

In addition to meeting the growing demand, more campgrounds would reduce unregulated use of B.C.’s backcountry – where actions of campers can’t easily be controlled.

The ministry has said it has no immediate plans to create new campgrounds. Indeed, planning new campgrounds in B.C.’s wilderness that are accessible to motorists and within a relatively close distance to Metro Vancouver won’t be easy. It will take time.

But it’s a worthwhile investment.

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