The B.C. Parks campsite reservation system has come under fire.

The B.C. Parks campsite reservation system has come under fire.

Campsite controversy overblown

The provincial government says the unavailability of some camping spaces is due to their popularity, not shady dealing or re-selling.

The provincial government says that the recent controversy over B.C.’s campground reservation system has been blown out of proportion.

Critics of the system, which allows 5,600 of the 10,700 camping spaces in the B.C. Parks system to be reserved online, claim that some of the spots are being reserved by motorhome tour operators, who sell them as part of a package for tourists. They also say that people are reserving some of the most in-demand spaces, then attempting to resell them.

Minister of the Environment Mary Polak says she understands the frustration many people feel when they are unable to reserve the camping space they want, when they want it, but adds that “there are simply too many people chasing too few campsites.

“The ultimate solution is to increase the supply of campsites, but that will take some time. Availability of land in high-demand areas is one challenge but, as well, for everyone who wants to see expanded campsites for recreational purposes, you have another person who says ‘No, I don’t want you to cut down more trees.’”

She notes that for the last five years, about three-quarters of the reservations made through the Discover Camping website have been made by British Columbians and that no one, including commercial operators, is given preferential treatment to reserve campsites. She also says that the system does not allow block campsite reservations.

That does not prevent some people trying to game the system. “Every year we look to change things to keep people from cheating,” says Polak, “and every year they find new ways.” She says the ministry is working closely with the reservation system provider to determine what changes can be made to close loopholes.

Some ideas being considered to improve the system include adjusting the reservation opening dates; lengthening the three-month rolling reservation window; and shortening the maximum stay in high-demand parks from 14 days to seven days, in order to provide more camping opportunities.

Creating more campsites in the most popular areas would mean cutting down trees, possibly affecting the beauty that draws people to the area. Photo courtesy Black Press.

Polak says that of the 131,000 reservations made so far this year, only a couple of dozen instances have been reported of people attempting to re-sell reservations. All the reports have been followed up on, to make sure the ads have been removed and the reservations have been cancelled. B.C. Parks also monitors social media sites for advertisements about re-selling reservations.

“All options will be carefully considered to make sure we don’t negatively impact the majority of our users, while trying to solve a problem that is only being abused by a handful of reservation holders. We are working hard to ensure everyone has fair and transparent access to our coveted camping opportunities.”