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Yukon looks to ease strain on parks with plan for more campsites, higher fees

Use of Yukon campgrounds has doubled in the last decade, and is expected to keep growing. The government says that means its time for a new parks strategy.

Proposed plan would see nightly camping fees go to $20 from $12, and annual passes to $200 from $50

Use of Yukon campgrounds has doubled in the last decade, and is expected to keep growing. The government says that means its time for a new parks strategy. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The Yukon government is proposing changes to the territory's park system, including a significant hike to campground fees.

The government released a new draft strategy for its parks system earlier this week, and it wants Yukoners to weigh in on some of the proposals.

Jean Langlois, manager of strategy and regulations for Yukon Parks, said the parks system is due for an overhaul.

"Our population is growing fast. The use of our parks has doubled in the last 10 years, and is on track to double again in the next five years. And so there's a lot of increase in usage, and with that comes the need for more management," Langlois said.

"Yukon's parks are, in a sense, a victim of our own success. People do seem to like what's available ... [they] are voting with their feet — or their hiking boots."

Langlois said the government is looking at extending the camping season, with some parks open and serviced for more of the year. He said there will also likely be new parks or camping options — particularly near Whitehorse, where competition for sites can be stiff on summer weekends.

Current fees 'quite outdated'

Those sort of initiatives will cost money, and the draft plan proposes a hefty boost to campground fees. They haven't changed since 2002, and Langlois says the current fees are "quite outdated." 

Right now, it costs $12 to camp for one night at a territorial campground. Under the proposed plan, that would go up to $20 per night starting in 2021, or $18 if you pay online ahead of time. 

An annual pass for Yukoners would go up to $200 from $50.

Right now, it costs $12 to camp for one night at a territorial campground. Under the proposed plan, that would go up to $20 per night starting in 2021. (Paul Tukker/CBC)

The plan also calls for a pilot project that would allow people to reserve sites at popular parks ahead of time, but Langlois says there would also be sites that cannot be reserved.

The proposed plan also calls for more activities at Yukon campgrounds, such as day hiking trails.

"Right now, our system of parks caters well to the back country adventurers who have the physical stamina and back country experience to go on a multi-day backpacking trip, and we cater well to people who want to pull over the RV and have a campfire," Langlois said.

"But not nearly enough to meet the demand for people to get out for a walk or a paddle or something while they're camping."

One thing that won't change — the free firewood. 

"We're proposing that that would still be part of part of the camping package," Langlois said.

The government has posted the draft plan online, along with a survey that can be filled out before the end of the month. The final plan is expected to be complete this winter.  

Written by Paul Tukker, with files from Dave Croft

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