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I keep hearing disturbing news from a number of sources that there is a plan for the permanent full closure of the BGI (Broken Group Islands) from October 1 to April 30. I can not find any official info on the Parks Canada website and do not believe that any public consultation has taken place.
Here is the newsletter excerpt from SKILS (outfitter from Ucluelet):
User and camping fees for the BGI are currently only collected online from May 1 to September 30. For the past decades, guides as well as recreational kayakers and boaters were able to enjoy the Broken Group Islands all year round, although no fees were collected from October to April. In 2020, permanent closure of the Broken Group Islands outside of the fee-collecting period was made with absolutely no consultation and was not communicated. One local outfitter learned this after a random exchange with the Visitor Experience Manager of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
Outfitters were then told that the BGI is closed during the off-season because there are no Parks Staff there during that time. Parks Canada has not demonstrated by documentation or statistics, evidence that justifies closing the BGI. We think kayaking outfitters and recreational kayakers should continue to have access to the BGI all year for the following reasons.
During the fee collecting season in the BGI, Parks Canada do not have any permanent staff in the BGI and they do not stay overnight. Therefore, a lack of Park Canada staff in the winter is not a logical reason to close the park. There are friendly Beach Keepers on Keith island during the Summer but they are not properly trained to perform rescues or advanced first aid in remote areas, so their presence does not make it significantly ‘safer’. The nearby permanent Coast Guard station in Bamfield is well located and equipped to perform rescues if necessary. Nearby Ucluelet also has an auxiliary Coast Guard station.
Furthermore, the application of this decision does not make sense due to the lack enforcement and the very porous border of the Broken Group Islands with a lot of visitors transiting in this area all year round by human powered or motor boats.
1. Allow access to the Broken Group Island all year round.
2. We would like to suggest to Parks Canada to allow users to pay user and camping fees all year round. This is easily achieved with the current online booking system.
3. Users are fine to pay fees, but if Parks Canada is concerned about liability during the off-season, then users could continue to have access to the BGI without paying fees from October 1 – April 30th. This has worked in the BGI for decades and currently works in other National Parks.
4. Parks Canada could create a partnership with the guides and outfitters so they become the eyes and ears of Parks Canada in the BGI to report any issues (i.e. infractions) or significant wildlife reports.
We encourage recreational kayakers and guides to voice their concerns and communicate with Dave Tovell, Visitor Experience Manager at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Karen Haugen, Superintendent at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve(email@example.com).
For me personally, the Broken Group is a fabulous location for an experienced paddler off season. It is a place to practice more advanced skills, train and enjoy solitude that is not available there is the summer. I find the behind-the-scenes decision-making very concerning and feel like this is another change that is geared toward out-of-province tourist use rather than a balance for local experienced users and visitors. Please do take time to research and write to the folks above. If this closure comes to fruition, we will need to take our game up a notch.
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