I’m the first to admit, when it comes to government news, I’m hardly unbiased.
But B.C. Parks’ centennial celebration is worth acknowledging and celebrating.
It’s worth commemorating what is a great legacy for British Columbians, as well as the thousands of annual visitors to our world-famous parks.
Starting with Strathcona Provincial Park on Vancouver Island in 1911, B.C. has steadily increased the amount of protected land—by 1930, there were already 13 provincial parks and 50 areas reserved for pleasure and recreation.
Today, B.C. Parks manages 999 protected areas, totalling 13.14 million hectares of land and marine waters—an area slightly larger than England.
Interestingly, this expansion was partly spurred by the Great Depression.
To help address record unemployment, forest work camps were set up in several B.C. Parks.
Workers at these camps built roads, trails and other visitor facilities.
This was a crucial development. While we think nothing today of driving, say, 34 kilometres from Kelowna to enjoy the waterfalls at Fintry Provincial Park, that wasn’t always the case.
The main way for city and town dwellers to get to a park—even the nearby ones—was rail.
That was just to get to the park gates, mind you.
From there, it was either on foot or horseback.
Sounds like fun. But it’s hardly a daytrip.
Today’s families have lots of choice. Kelowna and indeed the entire Okanagan is blessed with great parks within easy reach: Bear Creek, Okanagan Lake, Fintry, and Ellison are all nearby, and well worth the short trip.
And of course, once there, parking is now free.
Recreation aside, parks are also very useful as living labs.
There are currently over 100 active research permits in B.C. parks and protected areas, studying everything from butterfly population surveys to the stratigraphy of Precambrian and Cambrian bedrock. The mind boggles at the variety.
I could go on all day, but my space here is limited.
That said, I would be remiss if I failed to mention two other particularly interesting research projects taking place in BC Parks.
NASA is working at Pavilion and Kelly Lakes, researching microbialites —which resemble life on Earth some 540 million years ago, and which astrobiologists believe might be key to identifying primitive life on other planets.
At Kakwa, palaeontologists are continuing a survey of the dinosaur tracksite there. The survey and study aren’t complete (the site is nearly vertical and usually covered by snow, so it takes a while) but palaeontologists believe it has a greater variety of different species tracks than any other tracksite in Western Canada.
Research into primitive and potentially alien life, and dinosaurs; right in B.C. Parks. There are a number of great ways to help celebrate B.C. Parks’ 100th birthday.
Check out bcparks.ca for an event calendar outlining the contests, giveaways and programs to mark the centennial.
These will all be a lot of fun. But maybe the best way to celebrate 100 years of B.C. Parks is to get out there and enjoy one.
See you there!
Steve Thomson is the Liberal MLA for Kelowna-Mission.