Popular provincial parks under pressure in B.C., says UBCO study

BC parks under pressure

New research from UBCO is sounding the alarm as people and the climate intensify pressure on popular provincial parks.

Dr. Michael Noonan and his team at UBCO's Quantitative Ecology Lab are looking at the future of B.C.’s provincial park system and they suggest that as the climate continues to warm, parks will feel the brunt of increased use.

“The problem isn’t going to go away. Parks will suffer from overcrowding, and there will be more human-wildlife conflict in these parks. We’re calling for better education that needs to start now, not in a few years,” said Noonan.

Researchers are urging the province to create a use-management strategy for provincial parks due to concerns about overuse as the parks’ popularity, and B.C.’s population, continue to increase.

Noonan believes finding a balance between providing recreational opportunities and preserving a safe environment for wildlife will be a challenge.

“Our provincial parks have a dual mandate. They are areas for people to use for recreational purposes, but they’re also meant as protected places for wildlife. People will often use parks based on the weather—it’s a nice day; let’s get out for a hike. The warmer the weather, the busier these parks are going to get,” said Noonan.

The study, published in the Journal of Sustainable Tourism, analyzed the daily usage of more than 249 B.C. provincial parks. The study's lead author, undergraduate student Dayna Weststrate, says that management plans have already been started to control overuse in highly populated areas.

“We tend to be typically reactive with our parks, but I’m suggesting that now is the time we start planning for the future,” Weststrate says. “Instead of reacting to overcrowding when it happens, let’s plan for the future now.”

Some parks already require a day-use permit to regulate the number of people allowed to access trails, picnic areas and lakes.

UBCO researchers say finding a balance between ecological integrity and public enjoyment of provincial parks is a pressing issue that will likely escalate with population growth and climate change.

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