Wednesday, July 20, 2016

This Thing About BC Parks...


When I was a kid, and even when my own kids were smaller, we spent a whole lot of time in BC Parks.

And nowhere did we spend more of that time than at Bamberton which was once a throw-away chunk of clear-cut sandwiched between the old cement plant and the cabins across the creek on Saanich inlet at the northern edge of the Malahat.

We went there for all kinds of reasons, some of which you can read about below.


I've been particularly riled up lately about how difficult it is becoming for average British Columbian families lately to camp in parks like Bamberton (see here, here and here).

Hopefully the old post below (my very first actually, written back in the salad days of the summer of 2004) will help explain where all this riling up originated...


Sunday, June 06, 2004

The Gospel According to HR MacMillan 

49 degrees 17' 59" North...124 degrees 37' 0" West

When I was a kid my Dad used to pile us all in the Studebaker and we'd head off camping for 20 or 30 days every summer.

Those were great days indeed, and we spent almost all of them in British Columbia's Provincial Parks,which cost us a paltry $2.00 per day.

Truth be told, that was really all we could afford.

Now wait just a minute you might be saying to yourself, particularly if you are of a certain politcal stripe.....he said 'Studebaker', right? So this doesn't make sense, because all of this car-camping must have occurred way back in the past, before the Socialist Hordes took over and gave everything away, cheap, to all comers.

There is only one problem with that kind of waterheaded thinking.

It was not the Hordes that built British Columbia's Provincial Parks, or our Public Ferry system, or even our BC Hydro for that matter.

Instead, it was none other than that notorious free-enterpriser himself W.A.C. Bennett, who once said,"the finest sound in the land is the ringing of cash registers".

Now, I will leave it to others who have considerably more politico-historical mojo than I to explain how the original Socred Manifesto was bent out of shape by the Wacky One after he brought it over the Rockies and started hammering the crap out of it in his Hardware store in Kelowna in the early '50s.

Because, at least for this screed, the whys and the wherefores are not important.

What is important is that Mr. Bennett did these things. And they were good.


Last week my wife went online and booked a campsite for the August long weekend at a Provincial Campground on the Sunshine Coast. The cost was $20 dollars per day for the site, $6 for the reservation fee and $10 for an extra car (I have to work Friday and thus will come up with another family on the Saturday).

That makes $36.00 per night or $118.00 for the weekend which is more than twice what it cost my Dad and his wife and his three kids (me and my two brothers) for an entire four week holiday in 1971.

Ya, I know inflation, cost of living, relative earning multiples....blah, blah, blah.

But, then again, think of it this way: my Dad worked on a towboat all his adult life and we were always a working class family, which is why we were travelling in a 1963 Studebaker in 1971. But the cost of going camping was never an issue. In fact, at two bucks a night we could have camped from the day school got out in June until it started again in September and the cost of a campsite still wouldn't have been an issue.

But let's take a working class family now. Let's say they want to take a big trip around the province camping for 4 weeks this summer. The price of the campsites alone would run them somewhere in the vicinity of 700 bucks. You think that might not give them pause, perhaps even enough to consider Disneyland instead?

And don't even get me started on the lack of services, the deterioration of the infrastructure, and the dearth of nature programs now compared to that which greeted you when you entered a Provincial Park a generation ago.


So what the hell has happened?

Well, for one thing, of all the province's 'assets' the Parks may be the ones that have gone the furthest down the Dual tracks to Destruction known as P3 (private/public/partnerships) and Cost Recovery.

Clearly, the people who, as Frank Capra once put it, do most of the 'living and working and dying' in this province have lost control. And this is a theme I will return to from a 'big picture' point of view in the coming months.....but for now I want to talk about a small story in a small place almost smack dab in the middle of Vancouver Island.

It's called Cathedral Grove, which is a postage stamp of less than 200 hectares located along Cameron Lake about halfway between Parksville and Port Alberni on Highway 4, which is the main road to Tofino.

The park has one of the last easily accessible stands of old growth Douglas Fir anywhere and it was bequeathed to the Province by non-other than that old forest raper himself, HR Macmillan, who, I'm guessing, was probably great friends with Wacky Bennett.


One of the places we liked to camp when I was a kid was Englishmen's River Falls, a provincial campsite located at the foot of Mt. Arrowsmith at the end of Cameron Lake a few miles east of Cathedral Grove.

It goes without saying that the Grove is a magical place. And when I was 12 years old it could entice my brothers and me into doing crazy Tommy Thompson-like stuff that included bushwacking down from the Mount Arrowsmith trail or fording the Cameron River looking for Roosevelt Elk on our way to the Big Trees.

Oh sure, you could then, and still can, take the easy way into 'Canopy of Giants' by parking your car along the side of the road along a windy portion of highway 4 that runs through the heart of the park.

And this, of course, causes some congestion along the stretch of two lane highway that winds its way towards Port Alberni, Tofino and Pacific Rim National Park on the West Coast of the Island.

Which is why, if you were to take the current Provincial Government's argument at face value, the proposed construction of a new parking lot in the name of safety is a good thing.

And if you are convinced that building such a parking lot is the right thing it becomes very easy to dismiss the 'eco-freaks' that have barricaded themselves in the trees to defy the bulldozers as crackpots.

Except that some folks, including one of the few mainstream journos in this Province with any spine, Stephen Hume, have been bold enough to take take a peek behind the Government's Curtain of Spurious Spin and have started asking questions like.....

1) Why is the paved parking lot so darned big (ie. protestors have claimed that it will hold 150 cars and 20 buses)?...... Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection's response: It's not big at all because..... 'it is only designed for 140 cars and 15 buses.'

2) Why is the lot being built in a stand of mature second growth forest right next to the Grove, the destruction of which will facilitate blowdowns from the wind that whistles through the adjacent clear-cut?...... The Ministry of Protection's response.....'studies by Dr. Steven Mitchell of UBC and Madrone Consulting have concluded that there will be not be increased blowdown'.....This all sounds very plausible except for one small thing..... here is what Dr. Mitchell actually said in the conclusion of his original report:

"...In a small park such as MacMillan Park (Cathedral Grove), situated on a major travel corridor near expanding populations, with high visitor use, influence of human activities is inevitable. These effects can be mitigated to some degree through application of our growing knowledge of ecosystem function, and through long term cooperative planning....."

Clearly, the work of a careful academic, but it is hardly the ringing endorsement that our Spinners from the Ministry of Protection make it out to be.

3) Why has there been no public review or input into the process?.....Ministry of Protection response: "consultation and study have been going on for 12 years......" This is a classic propaganda ploy - spew out an answer that seems logical but is actually completely illogical (ie. internal consultation = public review). This double-speak is actually reinforced by an internally commissioned consultant's report from Blood and Associates that cites two, and only two, previous studies, both of which were carried out guessed it....Blood and Associates.

While there are many other examples of double-speak pertaining to this issue, those three points alone are enough to make you wonder if we are actually building a massive parking lot that will hasten the Grove's demise and if so, why?

Well, given the fact that the football field full of pavement will also be stuffed to the gills with Parking Meters, could it be that revenue generation/cost recovery is one of the driving forces behind this initiative? The former chief Gauliter of the Ministry of Protection, Joyce Murray, had a double-speak answer for this as well (all of this stuff can be found as pdf files at the site linked to above)

"..... parking at Cathedral Grove will indeed be metered. Last year, 27 Provincial Parks on Vancouver Island and in the Lower Mainland introduced day-use parking fees...."

Personally, I feel that 2+2=5 responses like this are actually more of an indictment than a justification.

And here's Dad and his Dad before him eeked out working class existences in the forest industry doing the shit jobs that made people like HR MacMillan and his kind rich. And now the conning-neos currently in control are doing their damndest to try and convince us that we should be glad that we are being forced to pay for the privilege of visiting the bone that was thrown our way as payment for being royally screwed throughout both of their lifetimes?

To put it another way, does anybody really think that the SuperRich would put up with paying a parking fee to tie their float planes up at the dock when they fly into a secluded SuperNatural British Columbia spot like, oh say, Great Central Lake, which is located in the still pristine wilderness just a few kilometers away, and a world removed, from the public highway that runs through Cathedral Grove?

Of course not.



North Van's Grumps said...

The Feds could spend some cash on Yoho National Park as well, and by using BC timber

RossK said...


That they could.


Isn't all our timber going somewhere else and/or into the boondoggle in PG?


Mr. Beer N. Hockey said...

Sonja and I just about pressed the go to Mexico button this July for the first time instead of staying in our own province. The weather did not look all that promising and EVERYTHING, including camping, has got so expensive here.

North Van's Grumps said...

BC Park's Economic benefits 1999

Why leave Metro Vancouver to go to a Park to camp out?

Open Space An Inventory of Opportunities 1975

Page 15 of 50

Cemetery Park Conversion

A cemetery in itself provides a type of open space in a community. It usually has well kept lawns with tree planting and other landscaping. The purpose of this section, however, is to describe the possibility of converting a cemetery into a public park. This usually applies to cemeteries which are no longer used. Work involves removal of head stones and monuments and replacement with green areas, flower beds, seats, etc. Head stones are sometimes re-erected in a group in the corner of the cemetery or as in the NANAIMO illustration, incorporated into a wall feature in the park. In older communities, the original cemetery of the first settlers is often close to the centre of town and can provide valuable urban park space without destroying the historical values of the burial ground. An example of this is KAMLOOPS PIONEER PARK. The Act details of the procedures required.

Keith Webster said...

We've been camping twice this season so far (neither time did we get into the park we wanted) and will hit Manning for nearly a week in August. The kids and I have loved camping for years but what seemed like vacation for years when you needed a new roof has now become the vacation equivalent of concert tickets - expensive, if you can even get in.

I think if this experience is widespread it has to resonate. My wife and I both grew up in single-income families that could easily camp and occasionally fly/take the train for a holiday. Today with two incomes and three degrees between us camping at Rathtrevor on a a long weekend is aspirational.

e.a.f. said...

Our family camped through the late 1950s and into the mid 1960s. all for approx. $2.00 or $2.50 per day. All camping gear came from the Eaton's warehouse for $50.00. It was the working persons vacation within their province. You went to Shuswap lake for a couple of weeks. It would be more crowded if logging was suspended due to fires or an IWA strike.

Today, after the inheritance, the decent pension going camping, well its not so easy. Can't get into a camp ground. Could get the European cousins to reserve an RV and provincial camp site, but that is just so expensive. Its easier to go to Europe.

The deterioration of the camp grounds was started when Mini W"AC decided to privitize them. Its been all down hill since then. today the camp grounds are a "gift" to tour operators who don't have to build their own for their customers.

B.C. provincial parks ought to be kept for B.C. residents. As you say, we built this province, we worked here, went to war as soliders, worked some more, paid taxes and more taxes and today the grandkids can't afford a house or a camping spot. The lawn of the leg. is starting to look good.

Rumour has it Timber West is starting to sell 50 acre lots over on Vancouver Island again. wonder if those in China get first crack at them and what it will leave Vancouver Island looking like. Perhaps the provincial government could get some of it for camp grounds. Its not like we got that train system we were supposed to have. People need to remember Timber West owns 80% of all private land on Vancouver Island. If all that land is sold to foreign interests what happens next??????????

RossK said...


Everything, indeed.

Have fun in Mexico and try to keep out of trouble with all the Albertans you all seem to run with there, etcetera



We spend a heckfire lot of time walking the whackadoodle in our nearby park/cemetery with the fine Mountain View up the street (do need to be a little careful of the coyotes 'round sundown though)



Like concert and/or hockey tickets.

And I do think it's universal and does resonate.

Thanks for stopping by.



Good point about the mini-WAC.


The sale of those lots/licenses out near Jordan River should be enough, on their own, to demonstrate just how corrupt, and unfit, this pay-to-play government really is.


Scotty on Denman said...

What happened in Jordan River was an outrage: then forest minister Coleman allowed WFP to remove its private forest from the land tax shelter that, intended to discourage the loss of productive forest land to other uses---without repaying the discounted land tax; when Timber West soon wanted the same kind of favour Up-Island, it pressed the ministry to accept a "donation" of 40 hectares of its private, land tax-sheltered forest land so's to build the P3 regional hospital the government had been pushing down the throats of citizens living around Campbell River and the Comox Valley for a couple years (they stood to lose their respective hospitals)---in return for releasing a sizeable chunk of its adjacent land from the tax shelter--- but, with the shady circumstances surrounding the WFP deal on the south Island still drawing heat (Coleman was shuffled out of the portfolio immediately afterwards to absolve him from answering reporters' questions), the government suddenly shitcanned the hospital it'd been trying so hard to build. Maybe it was a can of worms...okay, okay, it was a can of worms.

This is a fascinating area of inquiry involving the weird Esquimalt-Nanaimo Land Grant and big time cronyism right from the start, confederation 1871, but it really doesn't have much to do with parks--- except it would have been nice if we'd preserved a few examples of the incredible stands of Douglas fir that were virtually given over to CPR and Dunsmiur Coal. In those days, parks meant up in the mountains where we didn't ever think we'd go logging---that's what lowlands were for and here on East Van Isle, they pretty much logged all of it.

As things developed, hard-rock mining interests decried the preservation of these mountainous areas because that's where it's easy to find ore deposits; we'd have had more parks if it weren't for these mining lobbies. Before NDP Premier Harcourt doubled the area of parks and protected areas, crony business friends of the moribund Socreds had helped to develop a huge policy coup that would have allowed private licensees to operate in parks, everything from retail shops to restaurants and accommodation, the idea being it all had to "pay for itself" and make them profit at the same time. Thank goodness the Socreds got wiped out. Nevertheless, they never intended to relinquish public oversight in parks (they were going to pay for themselves, remember). The BC Liberals' plan is much different and worse than that: the usual neo-right agenda of bankrupting public enterprises with the intention of converting them to private ventures for eventual sale to favoured cronies. What they've accomplished in a decade and a half will take at least as long to repair---but it'll be worth it.

Imagine enjoying affordable, accessible camping trips on spur-of-the-moment anywhere in BC, maybe 20 bucks a night for the more uptown sites, but free in the more rustic spots like the Forest Service camp sites that used to dot the province like freckles, even right in logging areas. And imagine it all without the BC Liberals...ahhhhhh...

...can happen...

Lenin's Ghost said...

I normally drive my ancient suv way up into the mountains with some friends. Next trip will be a fly in by chopper to get the hell away from the drunkards screaming all night.
Fuck everyone else!

Anonymous said...

A day without the B.C. liberals?....that day is coming, hopefully sooner than later. Yes, your absolutely right Scotty, fixing the mess the clowns, have made will take time, and yes it will be worth matter what it costs! Build a new jail, on Baffin island...put them and their cronies in it, throw away the keys....

motorcycleguy said...

"they" do not want anyone to leave their cubicle in their "affordable" 800 sq foot condo in the city.....lest they see what "they" are doing to our wilderness areas.....I used to keep maps from all the forest districts in my vehicle (the one with 4 wheels) at all times in order to get to those great little Forest Service campsites.....did I just say "Forest" and "Service" in the same sentence? Just like "they" are changing the title of Conservation conservation here.