Will this be the end of private (non-commercial) camping in the Broken Group?

Discussion in 'General Paddling Discussions' started by JohnAbercrombie, Dec 28, 2017.

  1. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    I noticed in this morning's newspaper that campsites in the Broken Group can be reserved starting in 2018.
    Quote: (Probably from the ParksCanada press release)..
    https://reservation.pc.gc.ca/PacificRim/BrokenGroupIslandsBackcountry?List

    So, make your plans and get your fingers poised above your keyboards/phones on Jan 8!

    My guess is that most of those spots will be snatched up by commercial kayak tripping operators.

    Commercial leases in the Deer Group, high fees in the Tofino area, and now this...the possibilities are definitely shrinking for the 'traditional' kayak camping experience.
     
  2. designer

    designer Paddler

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    Sounds like another, "There goes the neighborhood ..." event. I've seen the whole "wilderness experience" on land go downhill. I remember when climbing a mountain involved checking the weather, planning the gear and food, and acquiring the requisite skills. My last outings on a mountain have been all about getting the required permits. Making sure I left Bend early enough to make it to the Ranger station in Washington to get the permit to camp/climb the next day. Oh yes, and to pay extra because I'll be above 7000 ft. I remember when, on a whim, I drove to a waterfall in Bend for a short afternoon hike to soak of the ions. But No. I was denied because now I needed a permit; a permit I had to buy back in town.

    I'm guessing those kayak campsites used to be First Come, First Serve. A person could hedge their bets by planning trips mid week and such. But now, people with money can just reserve the whole lot for the summer. Doesn't matter if they even show up. What used to be a refuge of recreation for those with limited means is now going to those with money. And like my climbing experience. The kayak expedition will not be so much about gear and food and skill as it will be about obtaining all the necessary permits. Good bye "spur of the moment".
     
  3. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Fellas, I’m going to disagree on this one. I’m theoretically in favour of permit requirements for high use areas, as permits regulate the number of users at any given time and ensure that you, the permit holder, will find a spot.

    Garibaldi Park is a prime example. The trail to the lake sees 1700 hikers on a sunny summer weekend. The new permit system guarantees that at the end of your long uphill slog, you will have a place for your tent.

    So for Garibaldi, the West Coast Trail, the Bowron route (for which I have a permit this summer), and the BGI, permitting makes a lot of sense and benefits the park user.

    As for the worry that commercial operators will hog the permits, I can’t see that happening. Last time I checked, only 3 companies had licenses to use the BGI.

    The worry about people buying permits and not showing up is an interesting angle. Perhaps that aspect is worth bringing up with Parks Canada.

    And I know it’s somewhat beside the point, but there are so many empty places (some of them stunning and close to Vancouver or Victoria) for kayak tripping that see very little use. If I have to scratch the BGI off my list, which I did many years ago due to their popularity, I’m not that concerned.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
  4. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    I am also in favor of permits for crowded wilderness areas. Unfortunately, there is no other viable solution. It is the world we live in. Honestly, I am surprised it took this long to happen.

    I first paddled The Broken Group in 1991. It wasn't my first time in a sea kayak, but it was my first multi-day trip in one. That trip was in September, and even then, the BGI were packed with people. This has been a popular place with paddlers since North America was originally explored quite a few thousand years ago!

    As a whitewater paddler, I spend hundreds of hours every year dealing with permit systems because every decent multi-day river trip in the US is heavily regulated. There are annual permit lotteries (with odds worse than 1,000 to 1) as well as lotteries for cancelled permits. If you want to go on trips every year, you have to spend hours and hours reading the regs and studying statistics to find a way to win a permit. Mind you, this is for popular multi-day river trips... you can go run a river midweek on a glorious summer day, just outside of Seattle, and not see another paddler all day long.

    Permits are a pain, but they beat beshitted beaches and fist fights over campsites. If you don't want to see other paddlers, go in winter or go far, far off the beaten path.

    It is what it is, not what it was.
     
  5. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    Parks could finesse this problem by looking back the last couple years and totaling up the number of visitor-days in guided parties, adding 20 or 30, and use that number to run reservations for guided parties only. With the added rule that guided parties must have reservations.

    And leave all the other uses as first come first served.

    In years past, we all squeezed in best we could and even in high use times I always found a spot, by avoiding the intensely popular campsites. I used Gilbert a lot, for example. Much shunned for its lack of sun (I think), it is a killer campsite for its primo access to Wouwer, Effingham, etc.

    I detect this move as one stimulated by outfitters, but that could be all wrong. Does anybody know what proportion of BGI visitors are guided?
     
  6. jamonte

    jamonte Paddler

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    Dave, as far as the regulating agencies are concerned, commercial groups are far easier to work with than private parties where every single group is different. If a commercial group violates a regulation or damages the park in some way, they are easy to find and will certainly pay the price with the loss of their license to operate in that park. When a private party breaks the rules or damages the park, they are harder to catch and punish in any meaningful way since most will never return to the park.

    If permits are required, it is better that both commercials and private groups be part of the permit system. What can become a very large bone of contention, however, is the allocation of permits between commercial and private groups. On the Grand Canyon, for example, commercial operators are heavily favored by the permit system. They get the vast number of permits during prime months while private boaters fight for scraps and leftovers during the off-season. Permit allocations on wilderness rivers in Idaho are a little more fair, however, commercial groups are allowed to swoop in and claim any private permit that was cancelled by the permit holder. That is inherently unfair, IMO. A permit allocated to private boaters should be filled by private boaters, not commercial groups who stand to make another $20,000 to $30,000 by picking up an extra permit in the prime season.

    Permits have been around a long, long time. The first wilderness trip I ever took via watercraft was Bowron Lakes in 1983 and, yes, a permit was required.
     
  7. AM

    AM Paddler

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    The commercial groups are already operating under permit in the BGI. I imagine that means they are limited to a maximum group size, length of stay, etc. Perhaps Liam will tell us more, if he reads this.

    We’ve had this conversation before on this site, but I would rather deal with a commercial group than a large club group or a school group - and I’m a teacher who runs school groups, so I know a bit about that scene.

    But that’s a bit off topic. I think for now we are starting to swap ignorance. The question we need answered has to do with commercial/recreational ratios and whether this ratio will change in the new system.
     
  8. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    There's nothing in the reservation system to indicate that commercial groups will even be identified, let alone have access to only a portion of the site reservations.
     
  9. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    A few minutes with Google turned up the following commercial operations offering camping trips in the Broken Group:
    Majestic Ocean Kayaking
    Pacific Northwest Expeditions
    Sea to Sky Expeditions
    Gabriola Sea Kayaking
    Adventuress Sea Kayaking
    Coastal Bliss Adventures
    West Coast Expeditions
    Paddle West Kayaking
    Hello Nature Adventure Tours
    SKILS
    U Calgary
    West Beach Paddle (David Dreves)
    Vancouver Island Kayak
    Blue Dog Kayaking
    Wildheart Adventures
    Ontario Sea Kayak Centre
    Tours of Exploration

    and there were more......
     
  10. AM

    AM Paddler

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    Wow, John, I stand corrected. Ten years ago I think it was a much lower number (Majestic, Pacifica, and Bat Star, IIRC). Seems like lots of players now. All the more reason for a permit system?
     
  11. Layback

    Layback Paddler

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    AM: "And I know it’s somewhat beside the point, but there are so many empty places (some of them stunning and close to Vancouver or Victoria) for kayak tripping that see very little use. If I have to scratch the BGI off my list, which I did many years ago due to their popularity, I’m not that concerned."

    I'm with AM. Stay away from the crowds. There are plenty of good campsites and interesting places to visit without having to cue up.

    That doesn't mean you have to drive to Tuktoyaktuk. This past August, I did a 13 day trip around the Broughtons without once sharing a campsite. Yes, it took a bit of extra effort to remain anti-social as I made my way back to Telegraph Cove. Other than the club trip I organized to Desolation Sound in July, I can't remember the last time I had to share a campsite with anyone.

    Really, take a look at BC Marine Trails and start thinking up trips to places not named the Broken Islands. Chances are you will come back with just as many great memories.
     
  12. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    The 'too many people; I'll go somewhere else' is a completely separate issue from my concern.

    I am concerned with the ever-increasing commercial intrusion into formerly public access areas.

    For the Broken Group:There are NO reservation slots that are not available to commercial groups making money in the Broken Group under the new system. This is different than the situation in some US areas where there are specific quotas for 'individuals' and 'commercial' operations. The fact that there are dozens of 'for profit' businesses operating in the Broken Group, with apparently only three of them having a permit to do so (see post above) shows that Parks Canada is not paying attention to the situation at all.

    For the Deer Group (formerly the nearby alternative to escape the crowds in the Broken Group) : A commercial operation now has 'leases' on two of the prime campsites, neither of which can sustain usage by large groups IMO.

    Add to the list: Spring Island, Johnstone Strait, etc....
     
  13. AM

    AM Paddler

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    John, just to be clear, that claim that only 3 operators have licenses was my error based on either faulty or out of date information. Any operator running a commercial group within a National Park or Park Reserve must have the appropriate paperwork.

    As for the actual numbers of reservable sites that will be available for commercial vs recreational groups, we still have not determined that. You make it sound as if the rec kayaking community will be totally shut out of the BGI by avaricious commercial interests. If that were the case, I would join you in voicing indignation. But that scenario seems unlikely and, in the absence of any hard evidence, I will assume that the new reservation system was put in place for exactly same reason such systems have been implemented elsewhere in BC: to manage a resource that is in danger of overuse.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
  14. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Andrew:
    Do you have more up to date info on the number of commercial permits for the Broken Group?

    Since Parks Canada has effectively stepped away from any direct management in the Broken Group, I wonder how the must have the appropriate paperwork regulation is enforced. Anyway, what's to stop a commercial operator from just saying "We're just a bunch of friends on a trip." Has there ever been a case where Parks Canada went after a commercial operator after doing the required 5 minutes of research on the internet ?

    As for 'managing a resource in danger of overuse', I'm still waiting for an answer to the question I sent several years ago to the Parks Canada CEO of the Gulf Islands 'Reserve' : "Why are large commercial groups allowed to use Rum Island as a campsite when there are so few tent sites 'allowed'/provided?"
    Perhaps there is something I have missed, but the Parks Canada reservation system doesn't seem to distinguish between 'for profit' and 'recreational' requests for reservations.

    Just in case anybody is still in doubt about my point of view... :)
    I'm not in favour of any commercial operations in National or Provincial Parks.
    In fact, I'm not in favour of commercial guiding operations at all!
    But those attitudes aren't at all those of the majority, I know.
     
  15. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    That info is available at
    https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/bc/pacificrim/activ/activ13#bgi
    Ten of the seventeen companies I listed above (after a quick online search) have Business Licenses from Parks Canada.
    There are four license holders that I didn't see in my search for commercial kayak trips in the Broken Group.
    It is interesting that Glenlyon Norfolk School has a license. Should other schools which offer trips also be required to get a license?

    The National Parks Act provides for hefty penalties (fines of tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars maximum) if businesses or individuals are contravening park regulations. Think of all the needed Park maintenance a few of those fines could finance! :)
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2017
  16. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    How does one extract authoritative information on these issues from Parks? Little squiggles seem to be surfacing here, through the efforts of a few posters. But, is there no "go-to" responsible agency or person? It would seem that Parks should have generated or found the information on users, groups private or contracted to formulate these new restrictions and fes.
     
  17. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    It may be the case that some of those commercial operations I listed are using licensed operators as 'sub-contractors'. That would cover the business license requirement.
     
  18. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Most of the government web pages that I read yesterday direct further inquiries to the Superintendent of the particular National Park. In September 2013 we had a discussion here at WCP about camping on Rum Island and other campsites in the Gulf Islands National Park Reserve. I contacted Marcia Morash, Superintendent, and she replied by email with a commitment to "respond to the questions as soon as possible". I'm still awaiting that response.

    Perhaps contacting the Pacific Rim Park Superintendent would be an avenue (for somebody, NOT me!) to explore?
     
  19. AM

    AM Paddler

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    I agree with John and Dave that the foggy information does not help things. Nor does it help that the stringency of the rules varies from park to park and between Provincial and Federal jurisdictions. I think the gold standard for permits and user management is Bowron Lake Provincial Park. You are given a date and time to show up (there are two intakes per day), your gear is weighed, and off you go. If you are in a group, you are given a schedule that you must follow so that no two groups are competing for the same site, and all group sites are on the opposite side of the lake system from the non-group sites, so the honeymooning couple on their canoe trip never have to camp next to a dozen teenagers on a school outing. Some would see that as nanny-state management, but the fact is that the Bowron circuit can absorb large numbers of people without seeming crowded.

    On the opposite end of the spectrum is something like the Stein. Though BC Parks asks school groups to register, there is no enforcement of that requirement and no monitoring of the use in the lower valley. So you might be enjoying the view of the river, only to find a school group of 35 show up. And if those kids start chopping down trees to make a fire, it's up to you to find their teachers (hiding in their tents) to get some order restored. True story...

    The above two examples illustrate exactly why I like permits and management systems for high use areas. Incidentally, the latter example also demonstrates why I like commercially guided groups: small, well-managed, insured, lead by pros. But, John and Dave, your points are well taken that the system works best if there is transparency and, I would argue, an attempt to separate groups from individuals.

    Cheers,
    Andrew
     
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  20. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Good points, Andrew, thanks.

    We've talked here at WCP about optimum/desirable/preferred group size.
    I've never seen a commercial group that I would consider 'small'. IMO, any group with more than 4-5-6 people is 'too big' and a blight on the landscape.

    I started my adult outdoors activity as a (mediocre) climber in the 70s. There were definite 'community values' in the climbing community in those days, and if you violated those values more than once you became a pariah in short order.
    The paddling community is quite different, as far as I can see.