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Are B.C.'s Parks in peril?

An environmental watchdog says the "crown jewels" in B.C. and Canada's park system are in danger thanks to budget cuts.



It was a brilliant day to be up on the Black Tusk Meadows Trail in Garibaldi Provincial Park, an area Al Jenkins reckons he's tramped along at least a hundred times over the last 40 years

"It cleared off and when I got up there it was one fantastic day," said Jenkins, 67, founder of Friends of Garibaldi Park. "Yes, there were 44 vehicles in the parking lot when I got up there but there were no bugs, no mosquitoes, no blackflies, no horseflies. Can you imagine that up there? Oh man, it was too much."

But this time, it wasn't a pleasant hike that took the former B.C. Parks area supervisor up to the alpine meadows. Jenkins spent more than two hours taking a couple of hundred photographs and video clips to catalogue where the trail is breaking up and needs fixing.

"At the moment the Black Tusk Meadows Trail is in deplorable condition," said Jenkins. "It requires a major renovation to bring it back, so that the meadows are no longer being damaged."

Jenkins is trying to raise $100,000 to repair the trail; money that he says should be coming from the B.C. government. He said that helicopters would cost $4,000-an-hour to do the kind of remedial work that's needed.

"This is just the beginning," he added. "There are other high-elevation trails that are also getting damaged."

Once touted as the "crown jewels" of B.C. tourism, our federal and provincial parks are now in peril due to funding cuts, says an environment watchdog. Parks Canada recently announced it was slashing 638 jobs, some of them scientists and planners, including 52 layoffs in B.C. It also reduced the number of shifts for another 1,690, including 51 B.C. federal parks workers. And in provincial parks, a shortage of cash has led to overflowing and rotting outhouses, broken down trails and run-down facilities, say critics. In fact, the miserly B.C. government parks system is the lowest funded in Canada, on a per-hectare basis, says the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS). A 24-page CPAWS report was released earlier this summer under the headline, "Parks under threat."

It says the cut in Parks Canada scientists "will significantly reduce" research and monitoring which are vital when it comes to protecting national parks.

"They hired them because the parks were in a lot of trouble from an ecological perspective," said Chloe O'Loughlin, director of terrestrial conservation for the B.C. branch of CPAWS. "Species were becoming endangered, so they hired the scientists to figure out what to do. We have a huge responsibility, as climate changers, to protect as much as we can, so that the grizzly bear doesn't go the way of the woolly mammoth."