Parking fees have been lifted from 41 provincial parks around B.C., and the provincial government will make up the $650,000 annual revenue in the environment ministry budget.
Premier Christy Clark and Environment Minister Terry Lake made the announcement Tuesday at Mt. Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver, to mark the 100th anniversary of the B.C. parks system.
The parking fees have been unpopular since they were introduced in the first term of the B.C. Liberal government. The environment ministry says they brought in about $1 million a year, of which $350,000 went to general revenue with the rest going to fund park upkeep.
Lake also announced a $500,000 community legacy fund that will accept applications from communities to make improvements to their local park. Up to $20,000 will be provided to selected projects for trail upgrades and other park improvements.
NDP environment critic Rob Fleming said the removal of parking fees is long overdue, since total visits to B.C. parks have declined nearly 15 per cent over the past decade.
Fleming called the legacy fund “a drop in the bucket” compared to a $10 million reduction in the budget for operating and maintaining parks. There are only 10 full-time park rangers left in the province, and volunteer organizations are getting burned out from doing trail work that is no longer funded by the province, he said.
Only the higher-traffic southern locations in B.C.’s system of 1,000 parks had the ticket machines, which charged up to $5 to park a vehicle for the day.
In the Lower Mainland, parking fees were in force at Alice Lake, Brandywine Falls, Coquihalla Canyon, Cultus Lake, Cypress Bowl, Garibaldi, Golden Ears, Murrin, Porpoise Bay, Porteau Cove, Rolley Lake, Sasquatch and Shannon Falls Provincial Parks.
Okanagan parks where fees applied until Tuesday are Bear Creek, Manning, Ellison, Kalamalka, Kekuli Bay, Mabel Lake, Mara Lake, Okanagan Lake and Sunoka.
In the Thompson region, fees were charged at Herald, Lac Le Jeune, Paul Lake and Shuswap Lake.
On Vancouver Island and Gulf Islands, parking machines were in place at Bamberton, Englishman River Falls, French Beach, Goldstream, Gordon Bay, Juan de Fuca, Little Qualicum Falls, Miracle Beach, Montague Harbour, Rathtrevor, Ruckle, Sooke Potholes and Sproat Lake.