Park lovers in British Columbia are outraged over recent cuts to the BC Parks system. Local mountain enthusiast Peter Rothermel says, “When is the provincial government going to wake up to the fact that their cuts are killing the goose that lays the golden eggs? For over a decade, we’ve had continual funding cuts, huge layoffs among BC Parks staff, the virtual elimination of park interpretation programs, privatization of park operations, forced legislation to allow for private resorts in parks, the installation of the unpopular and failed experiment of parking meters and now the cuts tolling the death knell of the park ranger service. Someone has to call for a halt!”
With the support of the Arrowsmith Parks and Land Use Council (APLUC), Peter is calling for a show of support for BC Parks, at Cathedral Grove on Parks Day, this Saturday, July 18, 2009, the day set aside annually for recognition of the important role our BC and federal parks systems play in the lives of our people and the tourist industry. “It’s up to all of us to say STOP THE CUTS and reinvest in BC Parks,” says Peter. “Join us at the Grove at 12 noon on Saturday, bring your signs, and stand up for the parks system you have known and loved in your lifetime.”
A longtime resident of Qualicum, Rothermel is a Director for the Federation of Mountain Clubs of BC and a supporter of the Arrowsmith Parks and Land Use Council. He is best known in the area for 10 years of sustained effort to have the most significant local feature, Mount Arrowsmith, given park status. That mission was accomplished through the Regional District in 2008.
Parks Council spokesman Paul Grinder points out some hard facts. “BC Parks receives about one-twentieth (1/20) of the funding as compared to park agencies elsewhere in Canada and the U.S. You can be sure that park protection, conservation, and interpretation have been on an eight-year slide, with no end in sight. In plain fact, the BC Parks system has become a vehicle for maximizing revenue sources for park facility operators. Even the best of them are forced to operate by this model.”
“In economic terms, the current provincial government has ignored its own 2001 study on the economic role of BC Parks: At that time, for every taxpayer dollar spent on BC Parks, $10 were spent by park visitors in local communities – an outstanding return on taxpayer investment – needed now more than ever to boost the flagging tourism industry in BC.”
Rick Sullivan of the Oceanside Coalition for Strong Communities (a member of APLUC) points out that Parks have always been a service paid for by all the people and freely available to all. “Now, in this recession when there are more and more people looking for an affordable holiday close to home, we see that the Parks system is charging fees for everything. Generations of people paid for our parks – now user fees inhibit our access to them.”
APLUC invites the public to attend a mock memorial service for BC Parks, billed as “BC Parks: Death by a Thousand Cuts” at 12 noon on Saturday, July 18, 2009, at the main parking area of MacMillan Provincial Park (Cathedral Grove) between Parksville and Port Alberni. For more information call Peter Rothermel 250-752-2529, Paul Grinder 250-468-1714, or Rick Sullivan 250-248-1174.