British Columbia

Vast majority willing to pay day-use fee for Joffre Lakes: BC Parks survey

The vast majority of visitors to Joffe Lakes would be willing to pay a day-use fee, according to a new survey released by BC Parks.

If implemented, Joffre Lakes would be the first and only provincial park to charge day-use fees

Joffre Lakes Provincial Park was established in 1988. Since then, it has become one of the most popular parks in B.C. (Getty Images)

The vast majority of visitors to Joffe Lakes would be willing to pay a day-use fee, according to a new survey released by BC Parks.

The survey was launched in April to seek input on measures to improve public safety, parking and management of the park. Joffre's three turquoise-coloured glacial lakes make it a popular — and overcrowded — hike and a beleaguered parking expedition.

All told, 2,568 people responded to the online survery. The respondents were primarily from the Lower Mainland, aged between 25 and 34, and were occasional visitors to the park.

Unsurprisingly, more than 74 per cent said that the overcrowding has a negative impact on the experience.

More than 70 per cent of those surveyed said they would be willing to pay to enter Joffre — located about 180 kilometres north of Vancouver — if they knew the money was being reinvested back into the park. 

But outdoor enthusiasts such as Taryn Eyton are concerned that even a nominal fee of $5-$10 — which most of the survey respondents favoured — might be unfair to some.

"Lots of new Canadians and people of lower economic status have trouble accessing nature to begin with, so adding another barrier is not great," said Eyton, who blogs about B.C. hiking.

 "But at the same time we need to protect our park."

On a busy day, Highway 99 is host to a long line of vehicles outside Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. (Submitted/Steve Jones)

Steve Jones, who advocates for increased funding to B.C. Parks, says a day-use fee might just trade one problem for another. 

Jones said the park is better developed than others in the region, and a day-use fee might convince visitors to go to other more ecologically sensitive parks without fees.

"We're playing a game of whack-a-mole here," he said. "If we try and fix the Joffre problem in isolation, what might happen is we might do a lot of harm elsewhere."

In 2018, more than 183,000 people visited Joffre Lakes — a 168 per cent increase in park attendance since 2010. 

BC Parks says the survey results will be considered when developing a long-term strategy for Joffre, but did not confirm if it is seriously considering a day-use fee.

The province used to charge parking fees for a select number of parks, but that was eliminated in 2011.

If implemented, Joffre Lakes would be the first and only provincial park to charge day use fees.

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