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.
In 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