A group of Maple Ridge campers who want some first come, first serve campgrounds in Golden Ears Provincial Park, complain campsites are sitting empty.
Michael Babor is part of the group of “unhappy campers” who have been lobbying for three camping seasons to have at least some drive-up camping in one of the province’s busiest parks. Camping in the park is available only by reservation during peak season, from May to September.
The unhappy campers have started an online petition at Change.org that now has more than 11,000 signatures, calling for first-come, first-serve access to the park in their home community.
Babor is admittedly bitter that he can no longer get camping in the park in his home community, so when he visited family camping in the park, and saw numerous empty sites, he determined to do a complete audit.
“It’s a big lie that the park is full. It’s clearly not,” he said.
Babor drove through the campground for two hours on Wednesday night, between 7 and 9 p.m., and took photos of the many empty sites.
There are three campground areas in the park, and he counted 29 vacant sites in Gold Creek, and another 37 in Alouette. He did not get to the third site in North Beach before it was too dark to continue, but estimates that if he had time, he would have counted 100 empty sites in the park.
This is despite the fact that signage on 232nd Street and near the campground entrance say the campground is full.
“I was a little appalled that the signs say the campground is full, and it’s not,” he said. “It’s about 25 per cent empty.”
The park has 432 camp sites that are vehicle accessible, and another 20 walk-in sites.
Babor wanted to provide a “snapshot” of campsite vacancies on a Wednesday night during the summer, and he believes it illustrates and ongoing problem. People who want to camp cannot, despite availability, and he says the system is not working.
“It’s really disappointing for a guy who grew up here to not be able to use that park,” he said. “They’re not managing the inventory.”
“Dial back the reservation and allow more first-come, first serve,” he asserts. “Problem solved.”
But Stu Burgess, operations manager for Golden Ears, said the park is fully booked.
“We’re doing the best we can – the park is completely reserved, and has been all summer,” he said.
He said seeing an empty campsite one evening does not mean the site has not been spoke for. He noted campers have until 11 a.m. the next morning to show up, before they lose their reservation. If they call to notify the park operators about late arrival, that can be extended until 11 p.m. the next day.
Burgess said they do enforce the BC Parks policies regarding no-shows, and campsites are made available to be booked on the discovercamping.ca website. He advises people to check the website at 7 a.m. in the morning, to see whether sites have been made available in the park, either due to cancellations or no-shows.
With its close proximity to Vancouver, Golden Ears is one of the busiest parks in the province, seeing some 132,000 campers.
B.C. Parks manages 10,700 campsites across the province and 55 per cent are reservable, while 45 per cent are first-come, first-serve. Golden Ears is one of 10 campgrounds that are 100 per cent reservable.
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