Camping in BC: Some campers not so happy as new BC Parks reservation system goes live

Thousands of British Columbians got up at the crack of dawn Monday in the hopes of booking a campsite using the new BC Parks reservation system.

While some were able to nab a campsite within minutes, others were met with frustration, as the wait time stretched for over an hour.

In an email to CTV News Vancouver, the Ministry of Environment said there were 23,000 people in the queue when the site went live at 7 am

“The queue was cleared within the first 45 minutes,” the ministry said. “As of noon, more than 17,000 reservations have been made and some parks still have some availability for the May long weekend.”

The ministry added that 97 per cent of bookings made within the first three hours were made from within BC

Some eager campers took to social media to share their success.

“(The) new BC Parks website worked great this morning for booking on May long despite big queues,” reads a tweet by Chris Moreau. “Seeing a lot of people complaining as if they have assumed a new site would make it less competitive to book. Not sure how they assumed that would work. Still limited to the site number.”

But another Twitter user, Joanna Stich, voiced her frustrations with the system.

“So glad I haven’t decided to book any camping spots within the next two months. Not able to wait in line with 22,000 other people on the BC Parks site,” her tweet reads.

The ministry said the queuing system is only in place for opening day and is also used by other park agencies to “provide fairness and transparency for site access during peak periods.”

“People are randomly placed in a virtual waiting room to access the system-wide list of parks, mitigating system overloads,” the ministry added.

“We do not calculate an average wait time, but many people have reported they got to the site faster than the initial wait time.”

The revamped BC Parks website soft launched last week, to allow people to become familiar with it before reservations opened.

Like last year, campers are able to book a site up to two months in advance.

“The new BC Parks reservation site launched exactly as designed to better meet people’s needs,” the ministry said.

It includes a new portal allowing campers to use maps to search campgrounds by region, park listing or availability.

The new website also offers information on nearby facilities, as well as an interactive calendar that shows when booked sites become free.

It replaces the previous Discover Camping website, which received a number of complaints about the site crashing on busy days.

The province said it conducted research with park visitors to make decisions about the new site, adding that it’s committed “to a better digital experience in 2022.”

“BC Parks is on a mission to ensure your experience of parks – from trip planning, to booking a campsite, to contributing to conservation – is just as enjoyable, seamless, and impactful no matter whether you’re in a park, on your laptop , or on the road in between,” an introduction to the new site says.

“To meet this goal, we’re setting out to significantly and continuously improve the services we provide to BC’s parks and the people who visit and value them.”

The ministry said more than 1,700 campsites have been added to BC Parks and recreation sites in high-demand areas since 2017. Of those, 500 are in the Lower Mainland parks, including Golden Ears, Chilliwack Lake, Cultus Lake, Stawamus Chief and Garibaldi.

With files from Alyse Kotyk.

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