(The following, reprinted in whole, of a letter from the Outdoor Recreation Council of British Columbia dated March 22, 2002. Members of constituent organizations may want to communicate their opinions to their local executives.)

OUTDOOR RECREATION ON CROWN LAND IN BC

Threats and Opportunities

This document is intended to explain to members of the Outdoor Recreation Council the threats that are currently facing recreation in BC, and the solution that the Council is advocating on members’ behalf.

Government Direction

For nearly two decades, there have been two key agencies involved in providing and managing outdoor recreation at the provincial government level.  These are the Ministry of Forests and BC Parks.  Very soon, these agencies will be quitting or drastically reducing their activities in outdoor recreation management.  Specific plans for each agency include:

Ministry of Forests:

BC Parks (part of Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection)

Implications for outdoor recreation

What can we do?

The following choices are some of the courses of action (or inaction) considered by the Executive.

  1. Do Nothing.  This involves wringing our hands, waiting, and hoping that the government will come to its senses and decide that outdoor recreation is an important value and reverse the decisions to close or transfer the facilities.  The Executive decided that this is unlikely to be a successful strategy.  By doing nothing, we can expect to see all of the implications listed above.
  2. Protest the closures.  While we have certainly expressed our dissatisfaction with the direction of these decisions, we feel that it is a waste of our resources to mount a large protest.  We encourage others to express outrage, but caution about expecting much positive government response.
  3. Search for alternative ways to manage the sites, trails, and key access roads.  This is the alternative on which the executive has chosen to focus its energy. We are advocating a solution that would see a separate entity / company take over management of the entire system of recreation sites and trails, and key access roads.  We would play a key role in the formation of the company, but would continue to focus on advocacy for our members.

If we pursue option number 3, there are several assumptions that have to be tested.

  1. Recreationists would rather pay a small annual fee to maintain the recreation system than lose access to the back country.  This fee would be for use of  sites, trails, and roads.
  2. Government will help us in a couple of ways, namely:
    1. Agreeing to collect a fee and dedicate the entire amount to a specific fund that is outside of general revenue.
    2. Not expect that volunteers and not-for-profit groups can assume the same sort of liability that governments can.
    3. Provide some start up funding (what they will save by not having to deactivate roads and recreation sites) as well as maps and data to ensure that the transition is accomplished smoothly.

How can it be done?

We envision setting up a separate entity whose exclusive purpose would be to provide and manage recreation sites, trails and roads to the extent that funding will allow.  Funds would be allocated to several categories (provincial administration, insurance, and regional priorities), with regional committees deciding on the specific spending in each region.  For example, region A may decide to spend all of their money on plowing roads in the winter to access good skiing and snowmobiling.  Region B might decide to split their allocation evenly between a new trail, some ditching and drainage repair, and site maintenance.

The entity would be responsible for managing the government contract, establishing regional committees and allocating the funds, and establishing maintenance standards and ensuring that they are met.  There would be a standing contract with the Council to do strategic planning, ensuring a direct link to our members.

We expect that many groups will take on stewardship of sites and trails, much as they do now with the Forest Service, and they might receive materials expenses.  The agreements for this stewardship would be with the provincial entity.

What aren’t we planning to do?

Although parks are being closed as well, we are not planning to include parks in our management proposal at this time.  The reasons are these: