British Columbia

Increased number of no-shows for reserved B.C. Parks campsites have some calling for change

Campers have noticed an unusual number of reserved sites sitting empty in B.C. Parks this summer, and they’re calling for changes to the reservation system to ensure everyone gets a shot at enjoying the great outdoors.

Province says COVID-19 travel restrictions and wildfires to blame for last-minute cancellations

B.C. campers say they've noticed a lot of empty campsites with signs saying they're reserved this summer. (Shutterstock / Volodymyr Burdiak)

Campers have noticed an unusual number of reserved campsites sitting empty in B.C. Parks this summer, and they're calling for changes to the reservation system to ensure everyone gets a shot at enjoying the great outdoors.

Louise Pedersen, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Council of B.C., said members have reported high numbers of reserved sites that weren't claimed in parks across the province.

"That just means that a lot of British Columbian families are not able to take part in what really is to a lot of us … such a beautiful summer adventure that we treasure," Pedersen told CBC News.

At the popular Golden Ears Provincial Park near Maple Ridge, where campsites are only available through the B.C. Parks reservation system, locals have reported that 10 to 15 per cent of sites are unoccupied at times, she added.

Pedersen said the feedback she's heard is that for many people, if plans change, it's easier just to not show up for a camping reservation, because cancelling is a "rather cumbersome and complicated" process.

Her group is calling on the province to simplify the process for cancelling reservations, and to make more sites available on a first-come, first-served basis, so there's less of a mad rush when reservations open for people to book sites that they may not be able to use.

"Many of us are not able to plan our vacations two months in advance because we do shift work or we have changing work schedules, or maybe we're just not that good at planning," Pedersen said.

Travel restrictions and wildfires partly to blame

The environment ministry, which administers the park system, says statistics aren't available yet for this camping season, but it does look like there's been an increase in last-minute cancellations and no-shows.

A spokesperson said travel restrictions related to COVID-19 have played a major role in that, along with a dangerous wildfire season and smoke advisories.

Park operators have reported that most cancellations have been followed immediately by re-bookings, the spokesperson added.

Reserved sites are held until 11 a.m. the next day, and then they're made available on a first-come, first-served basis or placed back into the reservation system.

A family strolls together at Golden Ears Provincial Park, where locals have reported a large number of no-shows for reserved campsites. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Some B.C. campers confirmed that COVID-19 restrictions and wildfires messed with their planned vacations.

Vancouver resident Craig Jorgensen said he cancelled two reservations at the last minute this summer because of these issues.

He told CBC that he and his boyfriend had booked a campsite at Gladstone Provincial Park on Christina Lake for June. The plan, when he made the reservation in April, was for his parents and sister to travel from their homes in Calgary to meet them.

But when June rolled around, the advisory against interprovincial travel was still in place.

Jorgensen rebooked for August, but was then smoked out by wildfires.

In both cases, Jorgensen officially cancelled the reservations, but it was last minute, so he forfeited most of the camping fees.

The large number of no-shows this summer has had some positive effects as well.

"We were actually the beneficiaries of a no-show earlier in the season," Jorgensen wrote in a message.

"We had a reservation at the Chilliwack Lake campground and the site next to us appeared to be a no show, so friends that were going to just drive out and join us for the day were able to camp overnight as well."

With files from Breanna Himmelright

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