Opinion » Pique'n Yer Interest

Hey, BC Parks: Tourists aren't more important than locals

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There is so much to be pissed off about right now: a taxpayer-funded pipeline slated to be built under the guise of the "national interest," the disaster that is America (take your pick of issues there), and the daily unveiling of a new privileged male pervert.

The frustrating part of existing in the world today is bearing the weight of these serious issues and feeling entirely unable to do anything about them. Sure you can attend a protest, write to your elected official (I've basically got them on the email equivalent of speed dial at this point) or yell into the echo chamber of social media, but often none of it feels like it even makes a dent.

And that's why I'm choosing to rail against BC Parks in this space for its decision to ban dogs at Joffre Lakes Provincial Park. This issue is local, personal and a suitable metaphor for the way overtourism is impacting Sea to Sky corridor residents.

Let me get this out of the way: I know no self-respecting local is hiking Joffre at the height of summer unless they have visitors in tow. The cushy, accessible location offers a massive bang for a small buck and attracts busloads of tourists daily in the summer months.

After six years, I have a large repertoire of hikes I can do with my dog during which I don't see people in flip-flops guzzling from single-use Starbucks cups.

But still, it's a hike I enjoy a couple times a year—in the shoulder seasons during the week—when I have an afternoon to kill. It's beautiful, easy to get to and fairly effortless to hike. I've thoroughly enjoyed every visit.

So has my dog.

BC Parks says the reason for the ban is because dogs are leaving feces everywhere and disturbing animals. If they were to provide hard evidence and data of that I wouldn't be wasting my time writing this column.

But that's not the reason behind the decision. The real reason is they're trying to curb the number of people hiking the trail because those people leave behind mounds of trash (need I remind you of the two locals who gained attention for hiking out 40 pounds of garbage from the area last year?), park up and down the highway and impact the wildlife in the area.

It can't afford to hire someone to limit the number of people on the trail each day so by banning dogs, they're banning dog owners. And guess who brings their dogs on hikes around Pemberton? Not tourists from Europe or Asia or the U.K.—but rather locals.

With this move BC Parks is essentially banning many locals in order to make an amenity in our backyard more comfortable for tourists.

Now, I'm not anti-tourist. Nor am I one of those people who seem ready to slit the throat of anyone who shares a hiking spot on social media (I do believe the outdoors are for everyone).

But what makes me furious is that this is a hard place to live—rent, gas and freaking cheese eat up an entire paycheque. The reason we stick around is because of the stunning outdoors and the access to it.

By banning dogs at Joffre, the province is adding yet one more place I can't go—on that list already is all of Garibaldi Park.

"Just leave your dog at home. They're not banning you," wrote one person I almost blocked on social media (admittedly, in an unwarranted fit of rage) after I dedicated a post to railing against this new policy.

To that I say, you clearly don't own a dog. No dog owner is going to find a dog sitter for the day so they can go out and do the thing that their dog—who, just so the dogless understand, is probably also their best bud—was built to do.

So here is my very reasonable compromise: allow dogs in the park during the shoulder season. Plenty of places allow dogs in certain seasons—or permit them off leash during quieter months—with success.

Locals are used to adjusting their schedule around tourists. It's the price we pay for living where people vacation. But keeping us—and our four-legged friends—from yet another backyard amenity is rude, unnecessary and sends the message that we're less important than tourists.

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