Entry to B.C.’s outdoor restricted by washroom, parking entry, finds ballot

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A significant number of British Columbians say a disability has kept them from exploring the great outdoors, according to a new survey. The main culprits: lack of washrooms and parking facilities.

A significant number of British Columbians say a disability has kept them from exploring the great outdoors, according to a new survey. The main culprits: lack of washrooms and parking facilities.

The survey, conducted by Ipsos on behalf of the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC (ORCBC), found that while 70 percent of British Columbians have participated in outdoor recreational activities in the past year, one in ten have been prevented from doing so because of a disability.

“It’s a real problem,” said Louse Pedersen, executive director of ORCBC. “That means they might be housebound in some cases.”

“Really lacking in basic facilities.”

The highest rates of participation in outdoor recreation were found among younger people aged 18-34 (91%), men (75%), those with children (79%) and those with annual household incomes over $100,000 (79%).

On the other hand, those over 55 (49%), women (65%), and those with annual household incomes of $40,000 or less (56%) were the least likely to participate in outdoor activities.

Despite these gaps, more than 90 percent of respondents said outdoor recreation is important to their mental and physical health — something that has led health professionals across Canada to increasingly prescribe the outdoors to patients.

A similar proportion said that getting outside helped them appreciate the great outdoors and spend time with family and friends.

“85% of people who want to participate want more investment in trails, more signage, more outbuildings, more dumpsters and access roads,” said Pedersen. “They want to see changes.”

“We will certainly raise this with the decision-makers.”

The ORCBC is an umbrella organization representing over 60 BC outdoor user groups, from paddlers, hikers and mountain bikers to mountaineers, horseback riders and sport fishermen. In the past, she has repeatedly criticized the BC government for not investing enough in provincial parks and trail systems.

The latest poll results come a day ahead of BC Trail Day, when people from across the province gather to clean up and improve trails or take part in guided birding or wildlife viewing tours.

But the poll results show that interest in nature is not limited to a single day or even a minority of British Columbians.

Three-fourths of BC residents said access to outdoor recreation was a key factor in their choice of where to live.

Despite intending to explore nature, another four in ten people said they couldn’t go outside due to lack of time. An equal proportion indicated that the availability of washrooms and parking were the top concerns.

More than a quarter said difficulty booking campsites and overcrowding were some of their top concerns. And one in five said cost was a major barrier.

Pedersen said the survey shows that outdoor recreation is part of most people’s lives in British Columbia, but that the province’s recreational landscapes are not getting the investment they deserve.

According to Pedersen, outdoor recreation also has significant economic value, something the ORCBC plans to quantify in the coming year with a major study of how, where and what types of recreation habits are being practiced by British Columbians and visitors to the province.

The organization has submitted a proposal to the provincial government, but has not yet received any feedback.

“Unlike the mining or logging sectors, we just don’t have the resources to gather that information,” Pedersen said.

“We’re at such a disadvantage.”

The survey – the first of its kind in over a decade – surveyed 800 adult British Columbians from May 26 to May 30, 2022. To obtain a representative sample, participants were statistically weighted by region, age, gender, and education. The results have a margin of error of plus or minus four percentage points.