British Columbia

Google Maps glitch sends tourists to frustrated rancher's front door

Follow Google Maps to the Fort George Canyon Provincial Park trail head south of Prince George and travellers get a big surprise: you can't get there from here!

'Last weekend I counted 62 people,' says rancher dealing with constant strangers showing up

Visitors who follow Google Maps directions to Fort George Canyon Provincial Park end up at this sign and have to turn back. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

Red Rock Rancher Pete Stoner has tried in vain to contact Google Maps to fix an error that keeps leading hundreds of strangers to his door.

They were going into our property and it didn't matter what I said.- Pete Stoner

The popular online mapping system directs visitors along Highway 97 south of Prince George B.C. to a trail head for Fort George Canyon Provincial Park. The problem is they end up on private property with a river and a cliff between them and their desired destination — even if they did cut through Stoner's field and climb a rock wall.

Pete Stoner says hikers arrive at his house again and again, thinking it's how to get into the park only to be disappointed. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

"They would have a hundred foot rock wall, and if they kept going they'd be in the river," said Stoner.

He ends up dealing with carloads of people lured by the promise of hiking trails along the Fraser River where old stern wheeler boats used to run.

Instead they are left staring at a no trespassing sign.

The first time it happened in 2014 Stoner was taken aback.

"I was working on the tractor, changing oil I believe, and this vehicle comes in.... We have a gate, and usually...there's a chain wrapped around it. They'd opened it up and were coming in very very quietly and I just happened to see them as they went by, and tried to stop them — three guys. And they did not want to be stopped. They were going into our property and it didn't matter what I said."

Stoner said some visitors get belligerent, but mostly they are confused.

"Last weekend I counted 62 people. There was a bunch from Penticton," said the frustrated sawmill operator who has tried in vain to contact Google Maps.

Travellers ended up misled by Google Maps if they headed down Highway 97 to try to get access to Fort George Canyon Provincial Park. (Google Maps)

"We had a bus load from Quebec! I was logging, and I turned around and I was falling trees and I turned around and oh my God there's twenty people there, and I'm like, Get out of the way!  Je parle Francais, so I was able to talk to them and say, 'No, Google bad!"

Google silence

Google Maps has not responded to complaints.

The contact page only offers a mailing address. No email. No phone number. Stoner has filled out the form for reporting errors several times, but gets no response and the tourists keep arriving.

Visitors who follow Google Maps directions to Fort George Canyon Provincial Park end up at this sign and have to turn back. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

"It's like, 'thank you for your input, now go pound sand," said Stoner who complained to B.C. Parks back in December 2015.

Still no solution

B.C. Parks Supervisor Gary Van Spengen said they are trying to fix the problem and even made a sign for Stoner's property to try to explain to people why they've been misled.

The Stoners run a small sawmill and grow hay at this scenic Red Rock ranch where they would like to make it clear: There is no access to any trail head. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

"This just seems to be a little bit of a glitch with the Google Maps system," said Spengen.

His efforts to fix the issue have been met with not much more than an auto-response. Calls to government officials and politicians also went nowhere.

So for now there is a sign that reads: " Do not Enter; Private Property! There is no public access to Fort George Canyon Provincial Park at this location."

Then directions on how to get there follow, describing a 20-kilometre journey ahead which often leaves visitors as frustrated as the rancher who has to turn them away.

Red Rock rancher Pete Stoner says strangers keep showing up at his property looking for a trail head that's a long way off. (Andrew Kurjata/CBC)

With files from Andrew Kurjata

To hear the full story check out the audio labelled: Google Maps glitch


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