Garibaldi, South Chilcotin among parks under consideration
It was no secret that the provincial government was considering allowing the construction of lodges in B.C. Parks to increase access and to raise funding for the parks system the government said as much when they amended the Park Act in 2003.
However, it wasnt until three weeks ago that it was leaked that the government had actually completed a plan, called the B.C. Parks Lodge Strategy, that suggested where the for-profit lodges could be built, how big they could be, and how the sites and private developers would be selected. Both Garibaldi Park and the newly created South Chilcotin Park are on the list of potential candidates for the lodges.
The Parks Lodge Strategy also suggested a timeline the approximate sites for up to 10 lodges with up to 80 beds each will be selected this summer and put out to tender in the fall. Winning bids would be selected next winter.
According to Water, Land and Air Protection minister Bill Barisoff, the lodges are being created to generate revenues for the park system and to improve accessibility to parks for seniors and families. He also said there would be public hearings for each of the developments. However, many environmentalists believe that the public should have been engaged earlier in the creation of the strategy.
According to Bob Brett, an environmental consultant and member of Sea to Sky Parkwatch, the decision to allow private operators to gain a business interest in public parks is flawed.
"Bill Barisoff uses all kinds of examples of lodges that already exist in the Assiniboine, Tweidsmuir and other places, but to me theyre historic operations," said Brett. "They may have worked, those specific lodges, but I can name several other places where commercial operations in parks havent worked. The most local example would be Cypress the natural inclination of any commercial operator is to expand, the whole economy is based on that model so you cant say youll put a small commercial operation in the park and things will stay the same.
"Another example is Banff National Park, the town and the ski areas that continually need to expand. I even accept the argument that they do need to expand to be competitive, but thats exactly the reason they shouldnt have been there in the first place."
Brett says its important to remind government why the parks were created. Access is important, he says, but so is maintaining the ecological integrity of an area.
"I fully agree that there should be accessibility to wild areas, but I think that its totally inappropriate to have commercial operations inside the park," he said. "First of all it fragments the park, and secondly it allows a private company to benefit from a public resource. They end up benefiting because they dont need to worry about the area around them being logged or mined the only thing despoiling the wilderness is them."