The 2020 summer camping season has arrived, giving people in B.C. more opportunities to get outside and connect with nature as most provincial campgrounds and recreation sites open June 1, along with more parks for day-use activities.
To ensure British Columbians have access to camping opportunities close to home during the summer, new reservations can only be made by B.C. residents. People can now reserve a site two months in advance of their arrival date instead of four – a temporary measure to spread out the demand during the busy summer months.
“Spending time appreciating nature is one of the best things we can do for our health and well-being,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Camping provides the ideal opportunity to connect safely with family and friends in BC Parks beauty. We want to ensure British Columbians have access to summer vacation opportunities close to home, so we are limiting new reservations to B.C. residents. Our plan is to safely open as many parks as possible so that B.C. campers and day visitors can rediscover the wilderness beauty close to home.”
Opening campgrounds safely to support public health guidelines means it will not be business as usual in some campgrounds. To allow physical distancing, fewer sites will be available in some campgrounds, there may be some changes to services and communal facilities, and some campgrounds will open at a later date. Hot springs, backcountry communal cabins and campgrounds that require visitors to use shared cooking facilities will remain temporarily closed, along with group campsites.
As part of the ongoing campsite expansion program, the Province has also added 180 new campsites to BC Parks and recreation sites. Since 2017, more than 1,200 campsites have been added.
“COVID-19 changed a lot of our travel plans this summer, but camping locally in BC Parks or recreation sites might be the break you need,” said Joss Penny, chair of the Camping and RVing Coalition BC. “I welcome the news of 180 new campsites in provincial parks and recreation sites to boost capacity and to help ease some of the pressure of locating places to stay in high-demand locations.”
As of May 25, the Discover Camping reservation system is back online to accept new reservations. Most existing reservations for dates after June 1 will be honoured, so campsites in popular campgrounds may already be booked. Some reservations may need to be cancelled due to reduced capacity at certain campgrounds. Those who are impacted will be advised of their cancelled bookings over the coming weeks. A list of changes to campgrounds will be posted on the BC Parks website.
On June 1, additional parks will reopen for day-use activities. Playgrounds, halls and picnic shelters remain closed in all provincial parks. The remaining parks that attract the largest crowds will only reopen when it is safe to do so, taking into consideration the safety of visitors and staff, impact on nearby communities and the protection of the environment.
To ensure parks stay open and safe for everyone, visitors are expected to follow physical distancing requirements and will need to manage their own safety. If a park is too busy and physical distancing cannot be maintained, visitors using parks for day-use activities are asked to find another outdoor space to enjoy close to home.
Parks that remain temporarily closed are listed on the BC Parks website. People are advised to check the website often, as services and openings may change to align with the status of the COVID-19 response.
- BC Parks is one of the world’s biggest and most diverse parks systems, with 1,035 provincial parks, recreation areas, protected areas, conservancies and ecological reserves covering more than 14% of the province’s land base.
- During the last three years, 1,205 new campsites have been added to provincial parks and recreation sites throughout the province. A total of 594 new sites were added last year in regions with the highest demand – the Lower Mainland, Thompson-Okanagan, Kootenay Rockies and Mount Robson.
- Of the 10,700 campsites BC Parks manages, approximately 55% are reservable and 45% remain available on a first-come, first-served basis.
For status updates on BC Parks closures, visit: http://bcparks.ca/
For status updates on Recreation Sites and Trails BC, visit: http://www.sitesandtrailsbc.ca/
To reserve a BC Parks campsite, visit: https://www.discovercamping.ca/bccweb/
For non-health related information, including financial, child care and education supports, travel, transportation and essential service information, visit: www.gov.bc.ca/covid19
Or call 1 888 COVID19 (1 888 268-4319) between 7:30 a.m. and 8 p.m. (Pacific time), seven days a week.
A backgrounder follows.