Should BC’s trails adopt a ‘pay-to-hike’ system?
By Jacey Gibb, Distribution Manager
Great Inclinations is your go-to source for diving into the world of casual hiking in and around the Lower Mainland. Because hiking’s not just for assholes anymore.
Hiking, whether it appeals to you or not, is a pastime with a diverse following. On any given trail you can pass all kinds of hikers, from people hiking solo all the way to large school groups. I’ve seen toddlers scrambling up dirt trails, as well as watched elderly folks breeze past me while I’m already huffing and wheezing. Hiking in British Columbia is a great, low-cost hobby that’s accessible to a range of people, and I’m worried that might change in the near future.
As reported by the CBC, Pemberton asked the provincial government last summer to look into developing “a trail booking and reservation system fee structure”—as it was worded in their proposal—for the popular trail at Joffre Lakes. In recent years the provincial park has experienced a boom in popularity, to the point where lack of available parking and an increase in littering are now a major concern.
A reservation and fee system might sound like a valid and quick solution for at least some of Joffre Lakes’ immediate issues. For one, people might feel less inclined to undertake a hike if they have to pay a fee, reducing the volume of hikers and potential waste left behind. Revenue from the fee system could also be used to bolster park infrastructure, from adding more parking lots to hiring rangers to patrol and enforce the rules of the trail.
However, I am strongly against the idea of making the popular Pemberton hike—and possibly others in the future—a pay-to-hike trail.
Hiking already has a significant built-in financial barrier due to geography. Even within the Lower Mainland, many hikes reside outside the reach of public transit, so only people with a vehicle or access to one can enjoy these trails. By adding a fee onto BC’s trails, you’re further turning hiking into a privileged activity.
There’s also no evidence to show that charging hikers will alleviate Joffre’s woe. While not a perfect comparison, the local Grouse Grind already has a sort of fee system. It’s free to ascend the wildly-popular trail but hiking back down is not permitted; instead hikers are required to take the Skyride gondola down—which costs $15. Despite the additional price tag, the Grouse Grind has amassed a cult following of fitness enthusiasts and is incredibly busy. This suggests that when people are committed to a trail, they’re still willing to hike it regardless of extra costs.
I generally try to avoid busy hikes like Joffre Lakes, so adding a reservation fee wouldn’t really affect me. However, I’m keeping a close eye on the story because of possible repercussions for BC’s other trails. How the provincial government proceeds with Joffre Lakes will likely affect how other popular hikes located within provincial parks are treated in the future.
Hiking is a low-key way to spend time outdoors, either working on your fitness or just taking in the awesome nature that British Columbia is known for. The last thing we should be doing is adding more financial barriers to safeguard these opportunities for only those who can afford them.