Cool mountain air and the deep green stillness of the forest overwhelms me as I step out of the car and cross the parking lot of a local provincial park. I was thinking how eternally lucky we are to have the freedom of our parks when a white company pickup truck came roaring up.
"Have you got a pass?" a tall youth demanded slamming the door behind him.
"I just got out of the car to stretch my legs," I answered, amused by the size of this guy.
"Doesnt matter," the youth snapped, plunging a hand into his jacket pocket. "Youre lucky I havent got my ticket book otherwise youd be getting an $83 fine."
Knowing it was pointless to argue, I got into my car resigned to buying a parking pass before visiting the park again. But as I drove away, I couldnt help feeling something had been lost in having to pay a parking fee to use a provincial park. Curious to know how other people felt about the pay-for-parking policy initiated by the British Columbia government in May this year, I set out to visit several popular provincial parks in the Sea to Sky corridor.
At Porteau Provincial Park in Howe Sound north of Horseshoe Bay campers, Volkswagen vans and cars are already starting to fill the parking lot on what promises to be a busy Labour Day Monday. The marine park is a popular place for divers. There are several submerged shipwrecks off shore and the waters are rich in cod, rockfish and sea anemones. Andrew and his daughter Monika visit Porteau Cove five or six times a year to go diving.
"Its easy access to the water," Andrew says, watching Monika walk into the calm water in her wet suit and immerse herself up to her shoulders for insulation against the cold before going for a dive. "I would like to teach my daughter to dive in a safe place."
But, Andrew is not happy about having to pay $5 to park his vehicle.
"I think its stiff," he remarks. "B.C. is a very rich province. I lost my job and the one place they look for money is in peoples pockets."
Across the lot diving gear; flippers and scuba tanks sit on the tailgate of a pickup truck. More gear is laid out on the pavement beside a parked car where three women from Vancouver are getting ready to explore the marine park. The women like the amenities of Porteau but have mixed feelings about having to pay for parking.
"Its a lot," Angie Morelli says. "To drive all the way out here and have to pay "