Three provincial park boat launches in the Peace region have been identified as priorities for repair or replacement in the next five years, but how quickly the funds will flow from the province remains to be seen.
BC Parks has identified the launches at One Island Lake, Charlie Lake, and Gwillim Lake as priorities, with an estimated tab of at least $1.2 million.
But the agency sees scarce dollars for capital investments in the Peace. In 2018, total funding was just $625,000.
While $350,000 of that went to building a new boat launch at Swan Lake, that left less than half the budget for other priority projects, local officials say.
"A lack of capital infrastructure funding allocated to the BC Parks in our region dictates that BC Parks staff balance priorities to decrease operating deficiencies and to increase services for the public without sufficient funding to do so," Brad Sperling, chair of the Peace River Regional District, wrote in a June letter to environment minister George Heyman, who is responsible for provincial park spending.
There are 10 boat launches in provincial parks in the Peace region. The regional district has been lobbying for an increase in capital spending after the boat launch at Charlie Lake was abruptly closed last fall without notice or consultation with lake users and residents.
Provincial parks in the Peace region already operate with an annual subsidy of nearly $1 million a year, Sperling noted.
"If more capital investments were made into parks in the region, it is likely that they would attract more users and the annual operating deficiency could decrease," he wrote.
With construction costs up to 50% higher in the Peace than the Lower Mainland, the tab to fix the boat launches at One Island, Charlie, and Gwillim lakes is likely to be much higher than $1.2 million when the projects go to tender, Sperling said.
The province has budgeted $41.5 million for BC Parks this year, up from $40.4 million in 2018. Visitors to provincial and national parks in B.C. have soared from 20 million to 25 million over the last five years, according to the BC Parks Foundation.
While the government has increased capital spending in provincial parks, the cost to repair and replace aging park infrastructure across B.C. is growing, along with demands for more services, Heyman said.
"Like all levels of government, we must continue to make difficult choices about where and how we invest our capital dollars," Heyman wrote in a July 25 response letter to the regional district.
Capital dollars for parks are earmarked based on infrastructure levels, demand and use, and health and safety issues in a particular region, Heyman said.
"As such, much of the capital investment goes into facilities such as water and sewage systems, roads, bridges and trails, and major campgrounds and day use areas," Heyman wrote.
Parks staff continue to evaluate options for Charlie Lake, Heyman said.
He suggested the regional district meet with him at the Union of BC Municipalities convention in September to discuss ways to secure more funding for parks initiiatves in the region.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org.