COVID-19 reignites debate over B.C.’s reservation-only campsites

Will stay-in-B.C. vacations increase demand on provincial campsites?
Will stay-in-B.C. vacations increase demand on provincial campsites?

B.C. will reopen a number of campgrounds starting June 1, and is reactivating its Discover Camping online booking system on May 25.

“We know that for many British Columbians who may have been considering vacationing outside the province, that’s unlikely to happen this year,” said Environment Minister George Heyman.

READ MORE: Some B.C. campgrounds to reopen June 1 amid coronavirus pandemic

Most people who have already made reservations should be able to keep them, he said.

However, he acknowledged that some campsites may be pulled from service to maintain physical distancing. Anyone who has reserved at one of these sites will be notified.

But B.C.’s push to local camping this summer is renewing the controversy over reservation-only campsites.

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Reduced capacity on BC Ferries continues over May long weekend
Reduced capacity on BC Ferries continues over May long weekend

Mike Babor is one of the organizers of a petition calling for more first-come-first-served campsites at Golden Ears Provincial Park. To date, the petition has attracted about 10,000 signatures.

“A guy like me who is a shift worker who would show up on a Tuesday or a Wednesday for a spot on the weekend — I’m shut out now because I don’t know my schedule that far out in advance,” said Babor.

“Typically, you need four or five months out to have a reservation.”

Babor said Golden Ears has moved entirely to reservation-only sites, as have several other popular parks such as Porteau Cove in Howe Sound.

He called the additional $5-per-night fee a “cash grab,” adding COVID-19 will only add pressure to the system this year.

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“I don’t know how to navigate this summer with reservations. It’s completely uncharted territory.”

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


Heyman said the province is working to ensure there is the maximum amount of park space available over the summer.

“We’re looking at measures we can take to satisfy the demand in B.C. to the greatest extent possible, and, obviously, anything we can do to open the greatest number of parks in a safe way is exactly what we’re going to be doing,” he said.