Parking will now be free in provincial parks, B.C. Premier Christy Clark announced on Tuesday, as part of the 100th anniversary celebration of the provincial park system.

"The parking meters are coming out and parking will be free, effective immediately, so that British Columbia's parks are even more welcoming for families," said Clark in a statement.

"Our parks not only contribute to a healthy lifestyle and protect our environment, they are important to our economy. More park visitors mean more tourism dollars and more jobs for rural British Columbians and we want to eliminate any barriers to using the parks."

The move marks a significant change from the user-pay philosophy of her predecessor former premier Gordon Campbell, who was widely criticized for cutting back services and laying off rangers.

The free parking will not apply to municipal, regional or national parks in B.C. though, because they are not run by the provincial government.

Special funding for centennial celebrations

The province has also allocated $500,000 to fund special events and projects held in parks across the province all year, to honour 100 years of conservation and recreation in B.C.

"B.C. Parks are a part of who we are.They help define us as British Columbians, and show that we care deeply about our environment and our planet." said Environment Minister Terry Lake in the statement.

With 13.6 per cent of the province set aside as parkland and protected areas, B.C. has the second largest park system in Canada, second only to the national park system, according to the statement.

"The new legacy fund looks to the future and the improvements we can continue to make, and it looks to the past 100 years by recognizing that community groups have played a key role in making the parks and protected areas system what it is today," he said.