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B.C.’s Golden Ears Park campground is 100% reserved. So why are so many sites empty?

Click to play video: 'Unhappy campers raise concerns over empty sites' Unhappy campers raise concerns over empty sites
Unhappy campers raise concerns over empty sites – Jul 16, 2020

Campers at one of British Columbia’s most popular campgrounds are venting frustration after many reserved sites are apparently going unused.

On paper, all of Golden Ears Park’s campsites are spoken for. The province recently moved the area to 100-per-cent reservable, and only through its Discover Camping website.

But a tour of the campground by Global News Thursday found many of those sites vacant — save for the red tag marking them booked.

“I was like, what happened to it being full? I don’t know if it was because of COVID that they’re not opening all the sites? I expected more people,” camper Irene Yung told Global News.

Read more: Frustrations rise as B.C.’s campground reservation website crashes on opening day

Many campers said they had to spend several hours and deal with multiple website crashes before they were able to actually book their spots.

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“Ever since they made it reservable, and more and more and more reservable, it’s really hard to get a spot and I find that really, really frustrating,” camper Karen Horne told Global News.

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Record demand for camp sites crashes B.C. Parks online reservation system – May 25, 2020

One theory making the rounds among campers is that people who only wanted weekend slots at the campground had booked a full week to get them.

Karen Pedersen told Global News that if people actually are taking advantage of the reservation system, there should be zero tolerance.

“Personally what I’d like to see is you have to show up within 24 hours of your reservation, and if you don’t show up you lose the entire thing,” she said.

“There’s a lot of people that would love to come and take a site for a week.”

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READ MORE: B.C. residents to get preferential access to camping in province’s parks

In a statement, BC Parks said that’s exactly how the system is supposed to work.

Under the park system’s policy, sites are held until 11 a.m. the day after the reservation to give people a buffer if they’re running late.

“If a site is not claimed by 11 a.m. the day after a scheduled arrival date, the site can be released back to reservable inventory or released as (first come first served),” said a Ministry of Environment spokesperson in an email.

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But Angela Massey, an advocate for first-come first-serve camping, says that’s clearly not what is happening.

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She says the province needs to ditch the reservation-or-nothing system to make room for spontaneous camping, and prevent wasted sites.

“The fairest way to do this is to have the demographics understood and in place, and to have a percentage for first-come first-served, and a percentage for reservation only,” she said.

— With files from Aaron McArthur

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