Speculation is swirling around in online chats about whether northern Vancouver Island parks can handle their current “unprecedented rate” of use.
One commenter allegedly heard a Cape Scott camp host say Cape Scott Provincial Park might be closed to the public due to increased use.
It’s not true, however, to the relief of many a hiker, camper and day-tripper. The Ministry of Environment confirmed to Black Press Media that they are monitoring numbers, and so far see no need to close the park.
Visitor numbers have been steadily increasing over the past several years, the ministry said, and the spokesperson estimated that rate of increase is probably higher this year, as people are camping for the first time.
Therein might lay the problem.
Members of online hiking groups based on Vancouver Island have a serious gripe with the way some campers “leave one iota of human presence.” Discarded garbage, beer cans, toilet paper in the bushes, unburied feces are basic outdoor no-no’s that are being ignored.
Here’s what some members in Facebook groups Hiking Enthusiasts Vancouver Island and Vancouver Island Backcountry Hikers said:
“It’s truly disappointing at how many people suck. It’s not hard. Leave no trace! And if you can’t, stay home, you don’t belong there.” - Ian Ward
“I was there this weekend, beer cans in the forest, people pooping irresponsibly just off the trails. So much garbage.” - Shannon Jensen
“Shame on anyone who treats nature that way. Makes me wonder what their bathroom looks like at home.” - Kathleen Sharpe
Some posters are demanding action from BC Parks.
“This needs to change! The entire park will be overrun and ruined with bio-waste, garbage and fire pits by the end of the year with the amount of people going into the backcountry. Hire more Park Rangers, fine campers, permits… something needs to be done now.” - Amber Joy
Others want the parks closed altogether.
“Hate to say it, but I hope lots of the island trails are closed down for the remainder of the summer. I know people are getting into hiking for health and social distancing reasons, but these environment are sensitive and cant handle this level human interaction. I want everyone to experience the beauty of the Island, but not at this unprecedented rate.” - Rachel Costall
Some commenters suggested withholding information so newcomers would have a harder time finding these pristine locations.
“I have become reluctant to share photos and information about my hikes just for this very reason. Along with leave no trace, there is sort of an unwritten set of guidelines that true hiking enthusiasts follow. It is so easy to do it. If you can’t respect our beautiful accessible wilderness, please refrain from going there and let those that love and respect it, do what they do best….love and respect it.” - Gary Anderson
Overall, the groups tend to be quick to answer questions from other members — recommendations for accessible hikes, information about directions, debates about gear and lots of well wishes and picture sharing. Several people shared plans to bring extra garbage bags and pack out what others leave behind.
For the benefit of those new to hiking and camping this coronavirus season, BC Parks has a list of seven ‘leave no trace’ principles to follow when recreating outdoors:
Plan ahead and preapare; travel and camp on durable surfaces; dispose of waste properly; leave what you find; minimize campfire impacts; respect wildlife; be considerate of others.
Improper waste disposal is the most visible offence. Outdoor enthusiasts ascribe to a “pack in, pack out” motto, which includes the obvious wrappers and cans, but also compostable food. Even thought it breaks down, it’s not a natural part of the ecosystem and can attract wildlife. This also includes toilet paper where there isn’t an outhouse. BC Parks recommends packing out in plastic bags. It should not be burned, buried or left in the bushes. For more details on outdoor ethics, visit http://bcparks.ca/explore/notrace.html.
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