Joffre Lakes Provincial Park was added to the BC Parks reservation service this week in an attempt to manage the impact of exploding visitor numbers to the hiking trail in recent years.
Effective at 7 a.m. Tuesday the 26 backcountry tent pads at the upper lake–the only locations in the park where camping is permitted–will be reserveable through Discover Camping; there is no overflow camping area at Joffre because of constraints of the terrain, and campers without reservations will be turned away.
BC Parks has hired new full-time senior park rangers to carry out backcountry patrols to aid with enforcement, and these will be supplemented at Joffre by an auxiliary ranger who will patrol during the summer months.
“Reservations have become increasingly used to manage demand where it greatly exceeds supply, providing a range of camping opportunities for everyone to enjoy,” said Pamela Roth, Public Affairs Officer with the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
Last year was a record breaker for BC Parks with nearly 231,000 reservations – a nine percent increase over 2017 – made through the Discover Camping service.
Lillooet Naturalist Society president Vivian Birch-Jones attributes the massive increase in the popularity of the park largely to the impact of social media, acknowledging that BC Parks has responded to the influx but questioning if the measures that have been taken are sufficient, noting the reservation system will not impact day-use overcrowding.
“In my mind, Joffre is like a caution to us about how we’re managing our wilderness,” she said.
“When people realized that they could drive on paved roads in crappy city vehicles to easy access to pristine wilderness… It’s a perfect example of loving the wilderness to death.”
Previous management measures at Joffre have included expanded parking and signage, banning dogs from the park and significant upgrades to the trail.
Birch-Jones questions the wisdom of the latter investment, which, while making the beauty of the park accessible to more people, has necessarily also contributed to the throngs of visitors.
“It might have been a mistake.”
The 5.5 kilometre Joffre Lakes trail was a quiet, relatively unknown route a decade ago but has now become the access through one of the busiest parks in the province and is used by upwards of 170,000 hikers every year.
Roth said more measures are on the way to deal with the pressure, with a visitor use management strategy for the parks in the works.
A public survey was available on the BC Parks website as of last Monday to gather public opinion for the Joffre management strategy. It will be up until April 30.
The ministry announced at the same time that the two vehicle-accessible campgrounds and in the southern portion of Tweedsmuir Provincial Park will also now be managed using the Discover Camping reservation system.