Outside group urges B.C. authorities to extend help for trails and parks

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A group representing leisure and tourism in BC has sent a message to incoming Prime Minister David Eby urging the provincial government to increase support for the outdoor sector in the upcoming budget.

The Outdoor Recreation Council of BC (ORCBC) represents 40 organizations and businesses across the province who are raising concerns that growing interest in outdoor recreation is straining already limited resources. It has reported a lack of parking, access to sanitation, aging recreation infrastructure, environmental and wildlife impacts, maintenance backlogs and staff shortages as complaints from British Columbians.

In the letter to the Prime Minister, ORCBC requests the provincial government to increase the annual operating budget of Recreation Sites and Trails BC to $20 million and the annual budget of BC Parks to $100 million, the Trails strategy for British Columbia change and confirm appropriate support for the implementation of the updated Trails strategy and invest $10 million in a BC Trail Fund to provide reliable funding to community-based organizations that help maintain BC Trails.

A study by the University of Saskatchewan found that outdoor recreation in BC brings residents of British Columbia $15 billion in economic value annually, in addition to the benefits it brings to community health, the reconciliation through participation the aborigines and more offers.

“British Columbia’s outdoor recreation sector has experienced decades of underfunding that has resulted in loss of access, adverse environmental and cultural impacts, and strained resources, including pressure on staff and volunteers,” said Louise Pedersen, executive director of ORCBC.

Last year, the provincial government committed $83 million over three years for recreational infrastructure in BC parks, but non-park recreation areas, which make up 85 percent of the province, have not received the same support.

The ORCBC highlighted the organization Recreation Sites and Trails BC, which oversees 15,000 kilometers of trails and 2,200 recreation areas on Crown Land with just 50 employees and an operating budget of US$8 million.

“We call on the province to make new and needed investments that will place British Columbia in a much better position to develop a world-class trail and recreation system that will enable broad and inclusive participation in outdoor recreation, best practices.” for the design of hiking trails and environmental considerations and promoting reconciliation through increased representation of indigenous people in the planning, development and management of recreational activities,” added Pedersen.

Visit orcbc.ca/fundoutdoorrec to learn more about the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC’s campaign.

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