BC Parks’ campground reservation system opens — with a new interface

Camping reservations for provincial parks go live today as BC Parks launches a new online booking system in hopes of fixing glitches that have plagued its website in the past.

Campers can now book sites up to two months in advance for most provincial parks under a new interface that the province says is meant to improve user experience, allowing people to create user accounts and save their camping preferences.

The redesign comes after a series of mishaps related to its previous online service in seasons past, including website crashes and system errors.

“We certainly experienced a lot more use of BC parks and camping over past two years,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “Along with that came…the problems with the site’s stability.”

A screenshot of the BC Parks reservation system’s new interface, designed to improve user experience, says George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. (BC Parks)

Heyman says the new system has increased server capacity to prevent crashes. It was designed with input from campers, park operators and other service organizations.

New features include:

  • More flexible search options such as a map to search campgrounds by region, park listing or site availability.
  • Information on nearby facilities and large photos of campsites so people know what to expect when they arrive.
  • An interactive calendar that shows when booked sites will become available.
  • Saved booking preferences within customer accounts.

People sit on a rock on the Alouette River in Maple Ridge, BC on Thursday, May 14, 2020. The site’s revamp includes a map to search campgrounds by region, park listing or site availability. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

Changes to no-show rules

The revamp also comes with a policy change regarding users who book a campsite but don’t show up.

Under previous rules, campers could hold a site for days without ever actually showing up, frustrating those who were unable to secure a spot of their own.

Campsites at Golden Ears Provincial Park, pictured here, opens today for reservations for the next two months. Changes to the no-show policy mean campers who don’t show up by 11 am on the second day of their booking will have their reservations cancelled. (Ben Nelms/CBC)

“We did see quite a lot of abuse of that system,” said Louise Pedersen, executive director of the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC “There were some camping enthusiasts that hadn’t been able to get a site at [Golden Ears Provincial Park] and then went inside and saw that 30 per cent of the sites were not being used.”

Under the new system, campers who don’t show up by 11 am on the second day of their booking will have their reservations cancelled, with the site then opening back up to the public.

Pedersen applauds the change. However, with demand for camping increasing substantially over the past few years, she says she would like to see a staggered version of the reservation system for campgrounds in the Lower Mainland so it’s not always a mad rush for people to book.

The vast majority of campsites in the Lower Mainland are only available through reservations.

“If you don’t know your schedule over the next couple of months … you won’t be able to get one of these sites,” she said.

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