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BC Parks just gave more people access to the outdoors on the Westshore

Popular Westshore sites will get more visitors due to increased camping options

China Beach campsite. Photo: GoCampingBC / BC Parks

Demand for camping in BC increases every year. Since 2017, more than 1,700 campsites have been added to BC Parks and recreation sites. In 2023, the total number of camping reservations increased by 15% from 2022. By the end of September, a total of 366,831 reservations were made up from 317,647 in 2022.

Thanks to a provincial investment of over $2.7 million into Juan de Fuca Provincial Park, new space has been made for 21 new drive-in and 26 new walk-in sites for camping and for two new accessible shower and flush toilet buildings at the China Beach campground. These are the first showers and flush toilets at that site. And while the sites are not wheelchair accessible, the park will be more user friendly for people with disabilities and diverse needs. 

The investment marks the single largest investment in Juan de Fuca Provincial Park.

Ten new tent platforms were also added, in 2023, to the campgrounds at Mystic Beach, Bear Beach, Chin Beach, Little Kuitshe Creek and Payzant Creek. Two additional food caches have also been installed at each campground. Food caches or bear boxes are used to prevent bears and other wildlife from getting into camper’s foodstuffs. These are crucial for thru-hikers who can’t replenish food stocks along the trail.  

The $905,000 in enhancements makes it the biggest single investment in improvements to the Juan De Fuca Marine Trail in recent years. Roughly $2.1 million has been invested in new bridges, boardwalks, stairs and food caches at multiple locations along the trail in the past four years

 BC Parks is just following doctor’s orders.

Through an initiative led by Dr. Melissa Lem, the Canadian Medical Association enshrined nature prescribing (PaRx) into its policy in 2022 to increase environmental stewardship among Canadians and to improve their overall health. The program, recommended as a call to action in its Environmentally Sustainable Health Systems in Canada policy, was endorsed by BC Family Doctors.

Since the PaRx announcement was made at Cop15 in Montreal, 10,000 healthcare professionals across the country have signed up to prescribe nature to their patients. The BC Parks Foundation launched its collaborative PaRx program in November 2020.

BC Parks has approximately 6,000 kilometres of hiking trails and 2,000 walk-in or backcountry campsites so there are plenty of opportunities to get out into nature.

“Juan de Fuca Provincial Park is one of the most popular parks on Vancouver Island and people from all over come here to enjoy the outdoors and unparalleled views,” said Ravi Parmar, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca. “I’m thrilled we are responding to the growing demand for more campsites and more accessible options, which will provide more opportunities for people to get outside and create memories in this beautiful region.” 

The Westshore’s popularity means booking camping spaces has become challenging for tourists and Westshore residents alike. To make things easier, BC Parks implemented a new online tool called Notify Me, which allows its users to set notification alerts on its reservations website for when a campsite becomes available. In 2023, 30,000 account holders signed up for the notifications.

That’s good news for surfers watching for peak wave conditions without having to plan their trips in advance.

Despite its unreliable waves, China Beach is a popular beach for surfers. Luckily, for surfers who’d rather their sport not be overrun, the best conditions for surfing are in December and don’t coincide with the summer tourist influx and popular camping wave in the region. Because the waves are mostly flat there in the summer, it remains a good spot for beginners to learn.

The campground enhancements will also support access to the Juan de Fuca Marine Trail. The Juan de Fuca Trail does not connect to the West Coast Trail and the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve but it does traverse 47km of wilderness that stretch along the Westshore to its terminus at Botanical Beach, one of the richest tidal areas along the west coast. 

Botanical Beach, 5km from Port Renfrew, is a protected zone, with a fringe of shale and quartz and granite, jutting up through black basalt. It is a unique ecological wonder and its tidal pools are home to a myriad of intertidal marine species, best explored at low tide.