Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 7

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 7

Existing management categories for recreation sites and trails include:Free Camping

  • Managed sites and trails with feesCamping and trail fees are charged where the agreement holder has proposed user fees to help offset routine maintenance costs, and where the ministry has determined that the services provided warrant the fee.  Camping fees range from $5-$12.
  • Managed sites and trails without fees – Camping and trail use is free at managed recreation sites and trails where alternative ways of recovering routine maintenance costs are available.
  • Free Camping

    howser recreation site

  • User maintained sites and trails – Camping and trail use is free at user maintained sites and trails.  Campers are encouraged to be responsible and respect the environment by keeping the sites and trails in an unspoiled condition for others to enjoy.  The ministry provides a minimum level of service at these sites (i.e., cleaning/repairing infrastructure and hazard tree abatement).  These services are not regularly scheduled, but rather occur in a reactive manner.

In 2005/06, $1.4 million will be provided for incremental road surface, brushing and infrastructure maintenance on non-industrial Forest Service roads leading to high-use recreation sites and trails.  In 2006/07, this funding will increase to $3 million.

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 1

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 6

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 6

Free CampingFollowing the 2003/04 season, it became apparent that the ministry could not adequately deliver the recreation program with existing levels of funding and staffing ($880,000 with 12 recreation staff, five of which were transitional one-year positions).  It was estimated that up to 75% of the user maintained sites were no longer safe, sanitary or environmentally sound, and approximately 30% of the sites managed under partnership agreements were at risk of failing.  With further funding reductions planned for 2004/05, it appeared that the recreation program was not sustainable unless additional support was provided.

Consequently, the ministry prepared and submitted a request to Treasury Board for more funding for the recreation program.  In the 2004 Throne Speech, government acknowledged that the recreation program was in need of more resources, and committed to providing additional funding and staff to maintain recreation sites and trails, and forest recreation roads.  Funding was increased to $2 million for 2004/05 and the number of recreation staff was increased to 19. Additional funding was also committed to maintain road access to high-use recreation sites beginning in 2005/06.

Free CampingWith the additional resources in 2004/05, the strategy for managing sites and trails shifted to:

  • Supporting agreement holders that are managing sites and trails in order to retain existing agreements;
  • Increasing the number of sites and trails managed under partnership agreements (MOF may pay for toilet pumping, hazard tree removal, infrastructure replacement, and materials and supplies);
  • Awarding service contracts to manage high-use sites and trails that are not currently under partnership agreements;
  • Managing the remaining sites and trails as user maintained; and
  • Decommissioning low-use, remote sites and trails.

During the 2004 camping season, a sample of 120 recreation sites managed under partnership agreements and user maintained sites were evaluated as part of the provincial FRPA Effectiveness Evaluation Program.  Preliminary results from the evaluation were used to allocate 2005/06 funds to replace infrastructure.  Existing policies, procedures and standards for partnership agreements and user maintained sites and trails will be revised and refined based on the final results of the evaluation.

For the 2005/06 camping season, Forest Service recreation sites and trails will continue to be managed under partnership agreements, through service contracts, by ministry staff, or as user maintained.  The Ministry of Forests will continue to seek new partners and opportunities to manage additional recreation sites and trails with other parties.

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 7

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 5

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 5

Free Camping

westside creek rec site

In 2002, the Core Services Review recommended that the function for managing recreation sites and trails be removed from the Ministry of Forests’ mandate in order to concentrate limited staff and budget resources on core priorities such as sustainable forest management.  The Review also resulted in a shift in ministry policy to maintain forest roads only to wilderness standards, unless the roads are used for industrial purposes or to access residential areas.  Wilderness Road maintenance standards only maintain roads to the extent necessary to protect the environment – access for all types of vehicles in all types of weather is not guaranteed.  Many Forest Service recreation sites and trails are accessed on roads designated for wilderness standards and could potentially be impacted by this change in policy.

The recommendations from the Core Services Review were met with significant opposition from the public and media.  In response, the ministry met with recreation stakeholders in a series of meetings to listen to concerns and seek input into developing a workable strategy for managing the Province’s recreation sites and trails.  As a result of the stakeholder meetings, government determined that the ministry should continue to play a role in the management of recreation sites and trails through public-private partnership agreements.

Free CampingIn November 2002 and February 2003, the ministry issued two requests for proposals (RFPs) to manage Forest Service sites and trails through partnership agreements.  Many of the proposals received were conditional on the government paying the costs of  liability insurance and allowing proponents to charge fees at some sites and trails to help pay for the services provided.  Government agreed to cover the cost of insurance for partners and established a fee structure designed to reflect the level of services provided.

At the conclusion of the RFP process, more than xxx partners, including local community groups, outdoor recreation organizations, forest companies, First nations, regional districts and other parties, had signed agreements to manage xxx sites and xxx trails. Sites and trails not managed under partnership agreements continued to be open to the public, but were managed as user maintained. The ministry monitored user maintained sites and trails for public safety or environmental issues.  Where necessary toilets were pumped, hazard trees removed, and signs and other structures replaced. Where necessary, sites and trails were decommissioned where there were significant on-going public safety hazards or environmental concerns.

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 6

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 4

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 4

In the mid 1990s, due to increasing pressures from public use, the recreation program focused much of its resources on managing problems at near urban recreation sites.  At these high-use sites, vandalism, rowdyism and overcrowding had escalated to the point where corrective action needed to be taken.  Issues, such as the need for enforcing camping rules, site supervision, and additional maintenance services, required that some recreation sites be redesigned to address these concerns.

recreation area around BC Hydro's Strathcona Dam

recreation area around BC Hydro’s Strathcona Dam

These new challenges also came at a time when government was rethinking funding allocations for various ministry programs.  The recreation program began to experience significant reductions in funding, and for the first time was faced with the possibility of having to close down recreation sites and trails if additional funding sources could not be found.  Public opposition to this possibility was rapid and pronounced. Government decided to continue the program, but directed the Forest Service to develop a self funding model.

In 1999, the Forest Service introduced modest camping fees to help offset the costs of maintaining recreation sites and trails.  Two types of camping fees were introduced – a camping pass, which could be used at all regular service campgrounds, and an enhanced campground fee, which was charged at campgrounds that provided additional services, such as security or higher levels of maintenance..

 BC Forest Service Recreation Sites BC

BC Forest Service Recreation Sites BC

Camping passes were available on an annual or single-night basis.  Annual camping passes cost $27 ($22 for seniors) and allowed visitors to camp at all regular service Forest Service campgrounds for a period of one year.  Single-night camping passes cost $8 and allowed overnight camping for one night only.  The camping pass generated approximately $500,000 annually to support the recreation program.  Approximately 80% of the funds collected were directed to the local forest district to maintain and improve the campgrounds and facilities.

Enhanced campground fees were charged at a limited number of Forest Service campgrounds, generally high-use sites which were located close to major urban centres.  The enhanced campground fee was $10 per night.  Campers with an annual camping pass paid a discounted rate of $5 per night.  Persons with disabilities and seniors also paid a discounted rate of $5 per night.  Funds generated from enhanced campground fees were retained by the campground operator to pay for the additional services provided at the site.

The camping pass program operated from 1999 to 2001.  The program was cancelled at the end of the 2001 camping season because of the high costs and staff time required to administer, monitor and enforce the program.

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 5

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 3

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 3

Kettle River Recreation Area

Kettle River Recreation Area

In order to manage for the full spectrum of recreation resources, the Forest Service initiated the development of a recreation inventory system in the early 1980s.  The Forest Service recreation inventory classified recreation features into three categories – biological, physical/biophysical, and historical/cultural, along with a public consultation process to determine how people used and valued those features.

Another important component of the recreation inventory – the Recreation Opportunity Spectrum (ROS) – classified the type of recreation experience (e.g., remoteness) or activities (e.g., mountaineering) associated with provincial forest lands.  Seven ROS classes were used to describe the recreation opportunities associated with specific recreation resources – primitive; semi-primitive, non-motorized; semi-primitive, motorized; roaded, natural; roaded, modified; rural; and urban (rarely used).  Recreation feature and ROS inventories are available as a layer in the forest inventory GIS database, and continue to be a work-in-progress through constant updates and revisions.

Bear Creek Recreation Site Camping

Bear Creek Recreation Site Camping

The 1984 Forest and Range Resource Analysis Report estimated that approximately 20% of British Columbia’s commercial timber lay within visually sensitive areas.  Around the same time, B.C.’s tourism industry really began to take off.  As timber harvesting operations began to encroach on these contentious visually sensitive areas, landscape management became an important component of the recreation program.  Landscape management initiatives included: studies to assess social preferences and acceptability of landscape alteration; the incorporation of visual quality objectives into harvesting guidelines; and the development of computer applications for visual landscape management.  In the mid 1990s, forest landscape management was transferred from the recreation program to the Harvesting and Silviculture Practices Section of the Forest Practices Branch.

In 1987, the Forest Act was amended to give the Forest Service a mandate to manage wilderness in provincial forests.  A discussion paper titled, Managing Wilderness in Provincial Forests: A Proposed Policy Framework was distributed for public review and comment in 1988 and used to guide the development of Forest Service wilderness policy and planning.  However, some aspects of wilderness values continued to be recognized and managed under various other government agencies (e.g., Ministry of Lands and Parks, Ministry of Environment, Environment Canada).  By the early 1990s, wilderness management became a government priority, and it was transferred from the recreation program into the high-profile Protected Areas Strategy.

The scope and responsibilities of the Forest Service recreation program continued to expand and grow through much of the 1980s and 1990s with recreation planning and analysis (e.g., demand, value, carrying capacity), recreation corridor management, recreation map brochures, interpretive forest sites, liaison between public and commercial recreation interests, recreation use surveys, etc.  Program priorities were primarily driven by evolving social values and expectations, and associated shifting demands related to forest recreation.

Historical Perspective of the Forest Recreation Program – Part 4