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Time to Sign Up for Summer Camping



Summertime is fast approaching. In recognition of an aging homegrown population coupled with an increasing number of newly minted Canadians with no outdoor experience, over the past several years BC Parks has been bent on attracting more visitors to two Lower Mainland provincial campgrounds. Specifically on offer are sheltering roofs and soft beds.

In April 2011, Sea to Sky Park Services, a Vancouver-based company contracted by BC Parks to administer 18 provincial campgrounds such as Alice Lake in Squamish, announced that two log cabins featured during the 2010 Winter Games had been relocated to Porteau Cove Provincial Park north of Horseshoe Bay. When reached at his office in Mount Seymour Provincial Park in North Vancouver, where his family has run snow-sports facilities since the 1990s, general manager Eddie Wood told Pique that the Olympic cabins are a great way to introduce people to the outdoors and to provincial parks. "There are three things I like about the Porteau Cove options: the proximity to Vancouver and Squamish; the ocean at your doorstep; plus, cabins give us an opportunity to attract more people to the park, a demographic who don't have camping gear or families with aging parents who still want to come together in the outdoors." Wood pointed out that the cottages come fully equipped "with all the amenities of home". Rates for the winterized cabins, which have a maximum occupancy of four, run well above the $30 cost of a vehicle-access campsite at Porteau Cove: $219 per night during summer months and $139 in the off-season.

Wood also cited a similar initiative at Chilliwack Lake Provincial Park, where a nine-metre, four-person RV trailer rents for $125 per night, linen not included. In 2007, then–B.C. minister of parks Stan Hagen called for expanded choice of accommodation in a number of popular campgrounds. Until last year, aside from a call for tenders, there was little evidence of what the government had in mind. "We don't want to take away from existing campsites," Wood said, "especially as use over the past several years really picked up when fuel prices skyrocketed. We're working with BC Parks to identify new areas of the parks for future sites or bringing in RVs at low season, such as May-June at Cultus Lake."

Augmenting provincial parks, a necklace of private campgrounds lies strung around B.C. The incomparable reward of camping at one is the chance to share the outdoors with the sounds of birdcalls and rushing rivers as a full moon rises above a snowcapped peak. Such is the nature of the 'Ksan Campground in Hazelton in Northern B.C., where Gitksan First Nations have lodged for millenniums. Beneath the weathered face of Mount Rocher DeBoule, or Stii Kyo Din, once stood an ancient city-state, Tam Lax Aamid, where several tribes lived harmoniously beside the Skeena River. A catastrophic series of events, including the massacre of warriors by supernatural one-horned goats, led to the abandonment of what may have been one of North America's largest pre-contact societies.

'Ksan offers far more than a picture-perfect campground. The past blurs with the present at the adjacent historical village made up of five longhouses. Executive director Laurel Smith-Wilson explained that when opened in 1960, 'Ksan became the first aboriginal museum in Canada. "Our original structure, the Fireweed House, was moved here from historic downtown Hazelton. Despite ceremonies being outlawed for a time in the 20th century, our regalia and customs remain intact." Take a look for yourself. An abundance of food allowed the Gitksan, or People of the River of Mists, to camp here year-round. At the very least, treat yourself to a night too.

ACCESS: For reservations at Porteau Cove or Chilliwack Lake provincial parks, visit discovercamping.ca/. Camping details at 'Ksan are posted at www.ksan.org. For information on campgrounds throughout B.C., visit www.campingrvbc.com.

Pique contributor Jack Christie is the author of all-season, all-activities, all-ages The Whistler Book (Greystone). To learn more, visit his website, www.jackchristie.com