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B.C.’s ‘locals first’ camping season will depend on the honour system

Click to play video: 'Concern over B.C. camping reservation system' Concern over B.C. camping reservation system
WATCH: When the BC Parks online reservation system goes live on March 8, the only mechanism to weed out visitors from outside the province is an honour system. Will that be enough to dissuade people from violating pandemic rules to travel here? Catherine Urquhart reports – Feb 25, 2021

When reservations open for British Columbia’s campgrounds on March 8, the honour system will be the only thing guaranteeing locals get first priority.

The NDP government unveiled its plan for the camping season on Wednesday, promising British Columbians would have priority access, and retaining the shortened two-month window campers can book ahead by that was implemented last spring.

Read more: B.C. residents to get priority as provincial camping reservations open March 8

But Environment Minister George Heyman acknowledged the province was counting on honesty from would-be campers to keep it locals-first.

“We’re requiring people to go to a landing page that attests and confirms they’re a resident of British Columbia, and then they go through to the reservation page and begin to make their plans and their reservations,” he said.

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Click to play video: 'Record demand for camp sites crashes B.C. Parks online reservation system' Record demand for camp sites crashes B.C. Parks online reservation system
Record demand for camp sites crashes B.C. Parks online reservation system – May 25, 2020

Heyman said spot checks of campgrounds last season found a small number of out-of-province visitors, and that the overwhelming majority of people were cooperative and honest.

BC Liberal MLA Ellis Ross argued the system was open to abuse.

Read more: B.C. residents to get priority as provincial camping reservations open March 8

“I register for things online, and it’s no hassle for me to put in my address. My phone number. I mean, even a phone number,” he said.

“It seems insincere to say, we’re going to keep out outsiders and prioritize British Columbians without actually having some form of proof.”

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Golden Ears park reservations – Mar 5, 2020

According to Heyman, such forms of verification weren’t available without building a new app or  voiding an existing contract with the vendor that operates the provincial site.

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“When we signed that contract, nobody actually saw the situation we’d be facing,” he said.

As for the other annual complaint about the reservation website — high traffic, glitches and even crashes — Heyman said the province had added computer server capacity in anticipation.

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