British Columbia

B.C. Parks pulls down visitor data after errors found

This happened after CBC published an article last week on the most popular parks in the province, which also showed a substantial drop in visitors in 2017-2018 at Cypress Park.

Data showed substantial drops at several parks, including Cypress

Cypress Provincial Park which showed a substantial drop in visitors last year in a now suspect data set from B.C. Parks. (Steve Hong)

B.C. Parks has taken down its most recent data on visitor numbers from its website, saying there were some errors in its report.

This happened after CBC published an article last week on the most popular parks in the province, which also showed a substantial drop in visitors in  2017-2018 at Cypress Park.

At the time, B.C. Parks did not respond to an interview query about why the park was getting a mere 208,000 day-users compared to more than a million the previous year. 

Instead, it provided a generic statement stating day-use totals are often estimated based on vehicle counts, and fluctuations in visitor numbers can be due to park closures during natural disasters such as floods and forest fires.

But when a number of outdoor enthusiasts questioned the numbers after CBC published its story, B.C. Parks removed the data from its website. 

Steven Jones, an advocate who wants to see increased funding for B.C. Parks, says it's understandable the data was problematic because the agency is understaffed.

"They're really really stretched very thin and it's not entirely surprising that a few things might slip through the cracks," he said.

He also pointed out that Blackcomb Glacier Park showed zero visitors for the most recent year — another substantial drop from 270,000 visitors in 2015-2016 and 160,000 between 2016 and 2018.

Jones says funding for B.C. Parks is not high enough when compared on a per acre basis to other park systems in Metro Vancouver or Alberta parks. His bigger concern is that mistakes in the data can impact how decisions are made in deploying staff, allocating resources and funding different parks. 

"Certainly, advocacy groups across the province  anxiously look forward to those statistics reports to see how patterns are changing," he said. "Without data, you can't really do any management, so I'm glad that they've decided to invest some more time and take a closer look at the relevancy of the numbers."

Parks staff say they are reviewing the data and the report will be reposted once a full review has been concluded.

"We recognize some data entries were missing from the 17/18 report and are working with our staff to correct this gap and ensure we have a full data set," B.C. Parks said in a statement. "We apologize for this oversight and are committed to correcting any errors or missing entries in the report."

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