British Columbia

B.C. Parks' campground reservation system opens — with a new interface

Camping reservations for provincial parks go live Monday as B.C. Parks launches a new online booking system in hopes of fixing glitches that have plagued its website in the past.

Users can save camping preferences to their account; no-show policy has been updated

Porteau Cove Provincial Park offers a seaside campground near the Sea-to-Sky Highway, near Britannia Beach. Campers can now book sites up to two months in advance for most provincial parks under a redesigned interface. (B.C. Parks)

Camping reservations for provincial parks went live on Monday as B.C. Parks launches a new online booking system in hopes of fixing glitches that have plagued its website in the past.

Campers can now book sites up to two months in advance for most provincial parks under a new interface that the province says is meant to improve user experience, allowing people to create user accounts and save their camping preferences.

Tens of thousands of campers logged on to the service Monday morning, according to online wait times on the website.

The redesign comes after a series of mishaps related to its previous online service in seasons past, including website crashes and system errors.

"We certainly experienced a lot more use of B.C. parks and camping over past two years," said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. "Along with that came ... the problems with the site's stability."

A screenshot of the B.C. Parks reservation system's new interface, which has been designed to improve user experience, says George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. (BC Parks)

Heyman says the new system has increased server capacity to prevent crashes. It was designed with input from campers, park operators and other service organizations.

New features include:

  • More flexible search options such as a map to search campgrounds by region, park listing or site availability.
  • Information on nearby facilities and large photos of campsites so people know what to expect when they arrive.
  • An interactive calendar that shows when booked sites will become available.
  • Saved booking preferences within customer accounts.
People sit on a rock on the Alouette River in Maple Ridge, B.C., in May 2020. The B.C. Parks site's revamp includes a map to search campgrounds by region, park listing or site availability. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Hour-long waits

Maple Ridge resident Angela Massey was among those who signed onto the service before it went live at 7 a.m. PT. She says she was co-ordinating with friends who aimed to get a few sites at Golden Ears Provincial Park for the May long weekend.

Each user was randomly assigned a spot in a lottery system, with some waiting up to an hour.

Massey said the updated webpage was an improvement over the previous design, but expressed concerns over the lottery format.

"I was disappointed in the lottery system as I think it should have been first come, first serve," she said.

"[But] I was pleased the site ran better than it did in the past."

As of Monday morning, sites at some popular parks in the Lower Mainland, including Golden Ears and Porteau Cove, had already filled up for the Victoria Day long weekend.

With demand for camping increasing substantially over the past few years, Louise Pedersen with the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C. said she would like to see a staggered version of the reservation system for campgrounds in the Lower Mainland, so that it's not always a mad rush for people to book.

The vast majority of campsites in the Lower Mainland are only available through reservations.

"If you don't know your schedule over the next couple of months ... you won't be able to get one of these sites," she said.

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