Recreation and tourism organizations in B.C. have sent a message to new Premier David Eby, urging the provincial government to increase support for the outdoor sector in the upcoming budget.
40 organizations and businesses across the province are raising concerns over the growing interest in outdoor recreation which is straining already limited resources. They have reported a lack of parking, access to sanitation facilities, aging recreation infrastructure, environmental and wildlife impacts, maintenance backlogs and staffing shortages as complaints heard from British Columbians.
In the letter to the premier, they are asking the provincial government to: increase the annual operational budget of Recreation Sites and Trails BC to $20 million and the annual budget of BC Parks to $100 million, to amend the Trails Strategy for British Columbia and confirm adequate support for the implementation of the updated trails strategy, and to invest $10 million in a BC Trail Fund to provide reliable funding to community-based organizations that help maintain B.C. trails.
A study from the University of Saskatchewan found that outdoor recreation in B.C. provides $15 billion in economic value to British Columbians annually, on top of the benefits, it provides to community health, reconciliation through Indigenous involvement, and more.
“B.C.’s outdoor recreation sector has experienced decades of underfunding, propelling loss of access, adverse environmental and cultural impacts, and strained resources, including pressure on staff and volunteers,” said Louise Pedersen the executive director for the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC.
Last year, the provincial government allocated $83 million over three years to recreation infrastructure in BC Parks, however, recreation areas outside of parks, which make up 85 per cent of the province, have not seen the same support.
The organization Recreation Sites and Trails BC oversees 15,000 kilometres of trails and 2,200 recreation sites on Crown land with only 50 staff and an $8 million operating budget.
“We are calling on the province to make new and necessary investments that will put British Columbia in a much greater position to develop a world-class trail and recreation system that facilitates broad and inclusive participation in outdoor recreation, follows best practices for trail design and environmental considerations, and foster reconciliation through increased Indigenous representation in recreation planning, development and management,” added Pedersen.
Visit orcbc.ca/fundoutdoorrec to learn more about the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC’s campaign.