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‘Unhappy campers’: Golden Ears campsites to only be available via online reservation

Golden Ears park reservations
The B.C. government has announced that during peaks season, the popular camp sites at Golden Ears Provincial Park will be reservation-only. A similar plan was abandoned last year, after a public outcry. Jordan Armstrong reports.

The B.C. government announced earlier this week that camping spots at Golden Ears Provincial Park in Maple Ridge will only be available through online reservations during peak season. Drive-up customers will no longer be able to get spots on a first-come-first-serve basis from May to September.

“The popularity of camping in B.C. parks has grown significantly over the years,” reads a government press release. “This has created a demand for more reservation opportunities, so everyone has fair and equal access to campsites regardless of where they live.”

Campground reservation complaints
Campground reservation complaints

The Ministry of Environment planned to move to 100-per-cent online reservations last year, but delayed the rollout after public backlash and instead agreed to leave 15 per cent of campsites available on a first-come, first-serve.

Michael Babor, who launched a petition last year against the shift to all online reservations, says concerned campers weren’t properly consulted.

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READ MORE: B.C. adds nearly 600 new campsites in provincial parks and recreation sites

“We are very unhappy campers,” he said. “We’re probably not going to camp at Golden Ears anymore. My wife is a shift worker so we can’t really plan four months in advance. It’s kind of taken the spontaneity out of camping.”

Golden Ears is among the busiest recreation areas in the province. Last year, more than 132,000 people camped in the park, which has 440 or so campsites.

Environment Minister George Heyman says the shift to a 100-per-cent reserve system was made “to ensure that we could properly manage access.”

READ MORE: Alberta Parks camping reservations set to open up for bookings in March

Heyman says he is now confident the ministry has gotten things right.

“The way we’ve done that is by putting in a satellite connection that allows real-time updates if a campsite becomes available,” he said.

Petitioners say they feel that getting an online reservation feels like winning the lottery.

“I went online just out of curiosity to see, could I get something in May? Zero,” Angela Massey said. “Nothing’s available.”