For the last 30 years, successive provincial governments have whittled away at the funding necessary to manage our park system. This has happened in spite of numerous studies that have shown that money spent on parks is money that multiplies in the community.
Just prior to the first Liberal government of Gordon Campbell, a study showed that a dollar spent in the parks generates $10 in economic activity. More recently, another study pegged that multiplier at 7.5. Given the hundreds of thousands of dollars that are spent on advertising to lure tourists to the province, it would seem logical that money should be spent in the park system to maintain the tourism product that is promised by the glowing pictures.
In recent years, the number of seasonal park rangers that work on the ground in West Kootenay parks has dwindled to less than the number that worked in Kokanee Glacier Park alone in the late ‘80s. The rangers monitored and repaired trails, provided educational and safety services to the public and gave valuable input to park planners. Now, few hikers ever see a ranger and the few rangers left wage a frustrating struggle to maintain what exists.
There is no doubt that money has been spent on the existing “front-country” parks that campers use most frequently (and which are managed by private park facility operators), but the back country jewels in the park system crown are deteriorating.
Another issue which is affecting parks province wide is the issue of access maintenance. The best example locally is the closing of Woodbury Creek Road last summer which restricted access to two alpine cabins. These cabins generate revenue for Kokanee Glacier Park which is used to help fund maintenance in the park but for lack of access, sat empty last summer. While it is true that 2012 was an exceptional year for road washouts, this problem of jurisdictional priorities is not new. There are many parks in the province whose access is at the mercy of a different ministry which does not share BC Parks’ view of the importance of access.
The Friends of West Kootenay Parks feel that the time is long overdue for our governments to stop turning a blind eye to the problems facing BC Parks. As a start, the Friends would like to propose that the next government establish a cross-ministry system of access priortization that recognizes the importance of tourism when maintaining back country roads. In addition, since the budget of BC Parks has been repeatedly savaged for the last 13 years, the Friends propose that the next government should cease cutting at our parks’ budget and fund them to at least the rate of inflation.