(Fritz Mueller/Parks Canada)

Interest in park growing by the toilet paper roll

Gulf Islands National Park Reserve interest measured by unconventional means

Unlike many national parks in Canada, Gulf Islands National Park Reserve (GINPR) is not a single terrestrial site, but rather a series of sites dotted across islands. Visitors can drive to some locations, but must kayak to others.

With so many entry points, it’s hard to accurately track visitation numbers, but if toilet paper usage is any indication, visitation has gone way up.

In 2016, the park reserve supplied about 800 rolls of toilet paper across its many sites; in 2017, they used 1,120 — a 40 per cent increase.

Darcy Gray, acting visitor experience manager for GINPR, said the increase is in line with other metrics they have been tracking. The park reserve started taking reservations for the summer camping season on Jan. 3 this year and their day one reservations were 38 per cent higher than day one reservations last year. McDonald Campground, a drive-in site in North Saanich, was 35 per cent busier in 2017 than 2016 based on paid overnight stays and it has become more than twice as busy since 2013.

“It’s a national park that’s quite literally in the backyard of Greater Vancouver and Greater Victoria, but we found for many years the awareness wasn’t there,” said Gray. “I think we’ve come past that.”

Campers can reserve dates from May 15 to Sept. 30, with most people angling for the peak summer season, but Gray said despite the increasing popularity, GINPR is still a place for last-minute campers.

“I am actually quite happy that we’ve had that kind of visitation growth,” said Gray, “but we still are one of the few places within the region where even in the peak of summer, there is still the opportunity for those last-minute campers to, on a whim, try and go camping more often than not — whether it’s a nice forested site at McDonald [Campground] or a beachfront site at Sidney Spit.”

Long weekends and peak summer weekends usually fill up about a week beforehand, but Gray said there are lots of lulls mid-week where “there’s still so much vacancy and opportunity for campers who are interested.”

“That’s where we direct people if they want certainty but don’t want to plan far ahead of time,” he said.

Gray said with Canada 150 last year, there was a lot of public interest in Parks Canada, so they increased their staffing for resource conservation, visitor services and facilities/assets positions, particularly with summer students (the author of this piece was himself a summer student in 2016). They expect to maintain similar staffing levels this year.

This year, three backcountry campsites are now reservable — Shingle Bay and Beaumont (on Pender Island) and Narvaez Bay (on Saturna Island), which Gray said was a response to visitor demand.

“A lot of times people just don’t want to commit to packing up their stuff, getting on a ferry and going to an island unless they know there is a site for them,” said Gray.

Though it is cold, backcountry sites are open year-round, while frontcountry campsites are only open from May 15 to Sept. 30. The campground area on Sidney Island is closed for First Nations hunting until the end of February, but the day use area remains open.

For information, visit pc.gc.ca/en/pn-np/bc/gulf. To reserve, go to reservation.pc.gc.ca.

Just Posted

Parents call for change to health laws after Oak Bay teen’s death

Accidental overdose has Elliot Eurchuk’s parents seeking change to B.C Infants Act

Tsawout hosts Saanich Peninsula community leaders at blanket ceremony

Reconciliation event meant to share the Indigenous exerience

Amazing Race Canada kicks off at Hatley Castle

Popular reality TV show will premiere later this year

WATCH:First responders score first, take inaugural Challenge Cup in Oak Bay

Ice hockey game raises funds for Cops for Cancer, encourages positive interaction with youth

LGBTQ advocates turn Victoria SOGI protest into dance party

Counter-protest outnumbers anti-SOGI activists on lawn of B.C. legislature

Judith Guichon steps down as Lieutenant Governor of B.C.

Election decision didn’t make her best moments from the past six years

Vancouver to rake in $30 million in empty homes tax in first year

The tax is the first of its kind in Canada, and was intended to address the city’s near-zero vacancy rate

B.C.’s snowpack continues to increase, melting delayed

River Forecast Centre official says sudden melting further into the season could cause flooding

Another B.C. First Nation voices support for Kinder Morgan pipeline

Simpcw First Nation claims people living on one-third of pipeline route support the project

Scooter crash leaves Island man with critical injuries

RCMP said a truck was making a left-hand turn when it collided with the scooter travelling through the intersection

Prankster broadcasts fake nuclear threat in Winnipeg

The audio recording on Sunday warned of a nuclear attack against Canada and the United States

ICBC reform aims to slow rising car insurance costs

‘Pain and suffering’ payouts to be capped, major injury limit to double

Most Read