Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society encouraged by federal government funding announcement

Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Catherine McKenna says federal government prepared to spend $3billion on funding for to help with projects that will allow for better physical distancing

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Martha Creek Provincial Park. Photo: BC Parks

A national organization that advocates for parks and wilderness spaces is applauding a federal government announcement of funding for projects that allow for better social distancing, saying the funds could be used to improve parks infrastructure such as new bike paths, nature trails or other green projects.

The Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s BC Chapter said it is encouraged by recent media coverage where Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Catherine McKenna stated the federal government is prepared to spend $3 billion on projects that will allow for better physical distancing and encourage outdoor activities.

In a statement released May 6, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s BC Chapter (CPAWS-BC) said it is recommending immediate action and investment by the province to support the struggling provincial parks system to be able to keep people safe.

“Consistent underfunding of BC Parks over decades has created long-standing issues with failing and unsafe infrastructure,” said Bruce Passmore, executive director of CPAWS-BC. “Under-resourced and overworked staff has left parks ill-equipped to handle a surge in visitors at the best of times.”

Provincial parks have been closed to the public since the beginning of April. A number of parks are set to open for day-use over the Victoria Day long weekend, however provincial parks in Revelstoke will remain closed and no official opening date has been announced. In its statement, CPAWS-BC said BC Parks has “had limited resources and an overall lack of capacity to support physical distancing measures, and to maintain visitor facilities to a standard that would meet public health guidelines.”

“The current public health crisis has put a spotlight on these long-standing issues. It has highlighted the urgent need for the province to invest in BC Parks to carefully plan for improving visitor safety and the conservation of nature in these places we love,” said Passmore, adding investment in parks and outdoor recreation should be a priority for the B.C. government.

CPAWS-BC is urging the government to direct some economic recovery funding to BC Parks to hire more people into front-line park jobs and improve park infrastructure, saying this will help build a robust park system that will support the health and safety of British Columbians using these spaces both during the current pandemic and in the future.

Clarification: This story has been updated to clarify the $3 billion in federal funding is not specific to B.C. parks, but is for projects that will allow for better physical distancing. CPAWS-BC is encouraging funding like this from federal and provincial governments to be used to improve provincial park infrastructure and nature protection.