Pandemic pressure on Sea to Sky backcountry rec sites adding to litter and abuse

SQUAMISH (NEWS 1130) – Garbage, human feces, and damage — it seems the wilderness in Metro Vancouver’s back yard is, in many places, a mess because of careless campers and hikers.

With so many people exploring close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic, the MLA for the Sea to Sky Corridor is asking irresponsible backcountry-users to clean up their act.

The issue, according to Jordan Sturdy, may be a lack of experience and that a fundamental wilderness ethic has faded.

“In the past, we would have all been familiar with the idea that we should only take photographs and leave only footprints. We really do need to instill that in everybody, that it’s our responsibility,” says Sturdy, who represents West Vancouver – Sea to Sky. “Your garbage is your garbage, not our garbage. So take it with you — if you pack it in, pack it out.”

Photos published in the local paper in Squamish show a B.C. recreation site strewn with litter, a makeshift fire ring filled with garbage, and there’s a description of human feces and baby wipes by the riverside.

That is not an unusual scene at user-maintained, forestry rec sites within reach of Metro Vancouver, but Sturdy hopes that will change. He suggests some of the problem comes from inexperienced, possibly more urban, hikers and campers.

“I think much of it is people who have not been indoctrinated over their whole life to understand that we all have an impact and we all need to tread more lightly. There’s a level of expectation that somebody will come along and clean things up for us,” he tells NEWS 1130. “But at the same time, people don’t walk down the street and throw their garbage into the street, generally speaking, do they?”

Related article: B.C. woman appalled by garbage left behind by Harrison partiers

Sturdy wants to see more education and higher expectations for backcountry users, along with increased funding and more infrastructure to help people do the right thing.

“The number of local visitors that we are seeing [in Sea to Sky country] is increasing every year. This last summer was no exception and, given the limitations on travel, there’s no reason to think we won’t see another very significant increase in exploration of the area this year.”

He would also like to see more resources for a coordinated approach to enforcement from conservation officers, park staff and the RCMP.

According to BC Parks, the province already invests about $18-million dollars annually into improvements to existing facilities, and it has added more than 1,200 new campsites throughout the province over the last three years.

-With files from Lasia Kretzel

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