(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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Helping others, especially those struggling with mental health issues, keeps MOD Pizza owner Jim Hayden cooking. (RIck Stiebel/News Staff)
Saanich implements single-lane traffic stretch on Prospect Lake Road along Clavert Park. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Saanich makes one-way traffic permanent on segment of Prospect Lake Road

Prospect Lake Road to close near Calvert Park Nov. 2 from 9 a.m. - 3 p.m. for construction

Lacrosse player Patrick Dodds, 19, got his start playing for the Saanich Tigers in Braefoot Park and has now been drafted to the Calgary Roughnecks for the upcoming National Lacrosse League season. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Calgary Roughnecks draft young Saanich lacrosse star for coming NLL season

Going pro at 19 is ‘surreal,’ says Patrick Dodds

Nicole Abbott and her 10-month-old daughter, Ophelia, shown here at the Metchosin Fire Hall for the Halloween events last year. Residents are invited to a drive-through version this year. (Black Press Media file photo)
West Shore fire halls take pandemic-safe approach to Halloween

One spooky lane among three drive-thru features by firefighters

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan celebrates projected majority NDP government, but no deadline for $1,000 deposit

Premier-elect says majority government will allow him to tackle issues across all of B.C.

Jordan Jay Ward, 20, is wanted Canada-wide for manslaughter. (Calgary police photo)
RCMP: Suspicious man seen in Parksville woods resembled manslaughter suspect

Hikers say he resembled Jordan Jay Ward, wanted Canada-wide

A police pursuit ended with an arrest in Williams Lake on Highway 97 Sunday afternoon. (Facebook video screenshot)
Video catches police pursuit that ends with man kicked, punched in Williams Lake

A video of the arrest is getting widely shared on social media

FILE – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets Premier John Horgan during a press conference at the BC Transit corporate office following an announcement about new investments to improve transit for citizens in the province while in Victoria on Thursday, July 18, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Trudeau congratulates Horgan on NDP’s election victory in British Columbia

Final count won’t be available for three weeks due to the record number of 525,000 ballots cast by mail

Comedic actor Seth Rogen, right, and business partner Evan Goldberg pose in this undated handout photo. When actor Seth Rogen was growing up and smoking cannabis in Vancouver, he recalls there was a constant cloud of shame around the substance that still lingers. Rogen is determined to change that. (Maarten de Boer ohoto)
Seth Rogen talks about fighting cannabis stigma, why pot should be as accepted as beer

‘I smoke weed all day and every day and have for 20 years’

NDP Leader John Horgan elbow bumps NDP candidate Coquitlam-Burke Mountain candidate Fin Donnelly following a seniors round table in Coquitlam, B.C., Tuesday, October 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horgan, NDP head for majority in B.C. election results

Record number of mail-in ballots may shift results

The Canadian border is pictured at the Peace Arch Canada/USA border crossing in Surrey, B.C. Friday, March 20, 2020. More than 4.6 million people have arrived in Canada since the border closed last March and fewer than one-quarter of them were ordered to quarantine while the rest were deemed “essential” and exempted from quarantining. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Majority of international travellers since March deemed ‘essential’, avoid quarantine

As of Oct. 20, 3.5 million travellers had been deemed essential, and another 1.1 million were considered non-essential

Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam responds to a question during a news conference Friday October 23, 2020 in Ottawa. Canada’s top physician says she fears the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths may increase in the coming weeks as the second wave continues to drive the death toll toward 10,000. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns severe illness likely to rise, trailing spike in COVID-19 cases

Average daily deaths from virus reached 23 over the past seven days, up from six deaths six weeks ago

100 Mile Conservation officer Joel Kline gingerly holds an injured but very much alive bald eagle after extracting him from a motorist’s minivan. (Photo submitted)
B.C. driver thought he retrieved a dead bald eagle – until it came to life in his backseat

The driver believed the bird to be dead and not unconscious as it turned out to be

Most Read