British Columbia

B.C. Parks reservation site crashes after 50,000 people try to book at once

The B.C. Parks website crashed immediately after opening summer bookings for provincial campsites Monday morning.

Unhappy campers reported error messages, spinning wheels with up to 10 bookings made per second

Recreational camping will be allowed in B.C.'s provincial parks as of June 1. (BC Parks/Facebook)

British Columbians are clearly yearning for the great outdoors.

The B.C. Parks website crashed immediately after opening summer bookings for provincial campsites Monday morning.

The province announced last week that recreational camping will resume at provincial parks on June 1, and will only be open to B.C. residents this summer to limit the spread of COVID-19.

But when the reservation system opened at 7 a.m. PT, hopeful campers encountered spinning wheels, error messages, and pages that failed to load.

"It's a bit like starting the marathon with 40,000 runners ... and everybody pressing go at the same time," said Joss Penny, Executive Director of the British Columbia Lodging and Campgrounds Association.

"I think [for] those that are being frustrated, there still is quite a lot of availability and hopefully you'll get that vacation that you're looking for."

Some users reported that the booking system had already crashed before 7 a.m. The B.C. Parks call centre had a busy signal for much of the morning.

Environment Minister George Heyman said he was sorry about the issues with the booking system and that it was overwhelmed by the more than 50,000 people who tried to reserve when it first opened.

"My apologies. We are going to continue working to make things better," said Heyman Monday in an interview on BC Today

He said it was the largest number of camping reservations ever made in B.C. and double Parks Canada's biggest day.

"We need to look at this once we get through the next couple of days and see what we can do over the rest of the summer and what we can do in future years," said Heyman about improving the frustrating system.

Unhappy campers

Dirk Sieber from Abbotsford, B.C., was among the unhappy campers. He tried to book a spot at Hicks Lake in Sasquatch Provincial Park. 

"Everything just crashed and burned," he said. "Trying to get even the website to open this morning was painful."

Sieber managed to pick his location and dates, although some of the drop-down options didn't work at times. When he finally reached the terms and conditions page and clicked accept, Sieber received an error message and was booted back to the home page.

The 50-year-old also tried calling the booking number so many times that his cordless phone died.

"It's incredibly frustrating," he said, noting that B.C. Parks should have been better prepared to handle the demand.

Users received error messages when trying to book campsites. (Submitted by Mitch Miller)

10 reservations per second

The ministry said it made efforts to prepare for the increased demand, but the rate of bookings "exceeds those seen anywhere."

According to Heyman, 35,000 reservations had been made made by noon and 10 reservations were being processed every second.

In comparison, 1,100 reservations were processed in one day at the same time last year. This year, 800 reservations were processed in the first half hour.

The province said many sites were still available within the two-month rolling window, and that there will be more chances to book campsites the last week of July and all of August. 

"I don't want people to give up hope," said Heyman.

The province started reopening provincial parks ahead of the May long weekend, roughly a month after they were closed amid concerns over COVID-19. 

The ministry said that once campers reserve spots for the summer, they'll be asked to show ID proving their residency when they arrive at the parks. 

Non-B.C. residents with existing reservations will be refunded before June 15.

Reservations made by non-B.C. residents starting Monday are subject to immediate cancellation without refund.

If you have a COVID-19-related story we should pursue that affects British Columbians, please email us at impact@cbc.ca.  

With files from Yvette Brend, Daybreak South and BC Today

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