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Whistler input helpful at B.C. parks workshop By Chris Woodall B.C.'s Park Legacy Project will be that much better thanks to the 50 people who attended the travelling workshop when it stopped at the Whistler Conference Centre, Nov. 22. "I think it was really useful," says project member Julia Gardner. "We were happy with the turnout." The half-day workshop asked participants to comment on five aspects of how B.C.'s parks should be run. Attendees kept their pens warm writing comments, Gardner says. She hopes to set up a more involved workshop to delve deeper into information gathered by this round of the project. One theme was to find out what kinds of parks people want and why do we want them in the first place. A second position is to think about how parks should be planned and how to involve the public in the planning process. "There are so many new parks," Gardner says. "How do we get the planning done in a short length of time?" More than 250 protected areas have been added to B.C.'s parks system in the past five years. There are now 518 parks and 139 ecological reserves. It is expected that another 200 parks will be created in the next five years. Closely related to planning are management issues: what uses should different parks allow, what types of recreation facilities, how should they be zoned. "We have to consider how intense should the usage be, and if there should be increased access to some parks, or is it better to have less access," Gardner says. "Do people think of B.C.'s parks as campgrounds or as backcountry?" How much the public should be involved in the day-to-day operations of a park is another focus point. "We want to know if public involvement should be on-going: should there be a local committee, or a group of volunteers to oversee park use, especially for communities like Whistler that are right on the edge of a provincial park," Gardner says. Getting resources to run a park is also a consideration. "The budget for parks hasn't gone up at all," despite the vast expansion of B.C.'s park lands and protected areas to 10 million hectares or 10.6 per cent of the province. "How much of management and other costs should come from conventional sources, such as fees for service, charging for firewood, etc., or is it acceptable to have private contractors or corporate sponsors to run our parks?" Gardner asks. "Already I've heard perspectives from both extremes: some who say it's great to have corporate involvement, and some who say they go to the parks to escape all that," Gardner says. The workshop process continues in communities across the province until March, 1998. Follow-up workshops and questionnaires involving those who took part in the first round of workshops also continue to March. An interim report on the information gathered so far will be published after March, Gardner says. Other Canadian provinces and American states will be investigated to see how they handle their parks systems during this time. The final report is expected to appear in January, 1999.