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Parks to include more commercial recreation

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Local environmentalists wary of increased used

More commercial recreation operations will be allowed in the Sea to Sky corridor's provincial parks, according to the region's recreation officer.

"Our mandate includes the protection of natural values and ecological integrity," said John Tisdale, the B.C. Parks recreation officer for the Garibaldi-Sunshine Coast district.

"But we recognize the importance of commercial recreation to B.C.'s tourism industry."

B.C. Parks recently accepted applications for commercial recreation activities for the upcoming winter and summer seasons.

Tisdale said he has received about 20 new applications for proposed commercial activities, to go along with 60-80 active permits.

But the possible increase of commercial recreation in parks and protected areas has irked local environmental groups.

"Our aim is to keep commercial and motorized use out of parks," said Eckhard Zeidler of AWARE. "But we do respect (current) park management and land-use plans."

The Garibaldi Provincial Park management plan includes one of the district's few motorized recreation permits.

Tisdale said that particular permit – for a heli-ski operation – was grandfathered into the park's management plans when they were formed in 1990.

"This was an operation that had been going on for a number of years and the park management plan recognized it as an appropriate activity," he said.

Motorized recreation is not allowed in all parks.

"Management plans differ from park to park," he explained, adding that there hasn't been any serious conflicts between park users thanks to the permit process and management plans.

According to Tisdale, individual park management plans take all uses – and users – into account.

"Some of the parks are pretty busy," he said, noting that Garibaldi is the most heavily used park in the region. "But we're trying to achieve a win-win situation."

According to Tisdale, there has been an increase in the average size of commercially guided groups and that could lead to semi-exclusive commercial use in parks such as Garibaldi.

Semi-exclusive use means B.C. Parks will limit the number of commercial operations in certain parks.

"I can see it happening in the near future," Tisdale said.

Currently, all commercial recreation permits are non-exclusive.

Zeidler, meanwhile, said AWARE will be pushing its agenda when the Garibaldi park management plan comes up for review in the next couple of years.

"More than 85 per cent of Crown land is open to commercial use," he said. "Parks are there to preserve natural values."

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