No money for interpretive programs – just park passports

Editor: The Times:

What could be better than a May Day parade to promote community spirit and bring folks together for a fun experience? How about a visit on the same day by the Minister of the Environment, the Honourable Terry Lake to make a public announcement about something special to help celebrate the 100th birthday of British Columbia’s parks?  By chance I happened to hear that such an event was going to happen at the Visitors’ Information Centre after the parade last Saturday.  Knowing that our parks have been underfunded for many years and believing that perhaps the government was finally seeing the light and realizing the importance of proper funding to reinstate the interpretive programs and add some staff to this sadly understaffed organization, I waited in eager anticipation to hear how the Minister was going to honour this auspicious birthday.

I looked around in curiosity at the crowd of about thirty people gathered, noting that most of the folk were members of the local council, the media and  folk closely connected to the local tourism industry.  I wondered where the crowds were that had just a short while ago come out to participate in the parade.  Surely as citizens of Clearwater with our two adjacent provincial parks meeting the Minister of the Environment in his official capacity would be of great interest to all and act as a further reason to come together as a proud community and offer recognition to our much valued parks.

I listened with disbelief as I heard the Minister announce a passport program for children to collect stamps from each park they visit and earn a pin after a certain number of stamps had been collected.

As a long time educator, my mind immediately went to the details of this program. Who was going to hand out the passports?  Who would stamp them? Are the pins child-proof or do they pose a choking, poking hazard to young children? How many of these passports would actually become valued documents of summer holidays and how many would be found crumpled and damp, mixed up with the swimming suits, leftover hot dogs and other debris that mark the end of a successful summer day? How many trees did it take to make the paper to create the passports and were the pins made locally or shipped to BC from afar?  Who was going to teach the children about the uniqueness and beauty of the park’s natural features? And where were Clearwater’s children at this event? Surely if this is a program for children then Clearwater’s children must be part of this announcement.

I felt speechless as I realized I had just witnessed a blatant political photo op with no connection whatsoever to the citizens for whom the provincial park system was created. When the cake and coolers of pop came out I was not in a party mood. Not even Jerry the Moose, regaled in his new spring suit could encourage me to clap or cheer for this insulting announcement.

I made my way to speak to Mr. Lake and asked him if he was also going to reinstate and fund the interpretive program so that children could be better served. He said no, not this year and mumbled something about the loss of revenue because of the removal of the parking meters before he skittered off away from me.

I felt like a child who had been expecting Santa Claus and had been left a lump of coal. A celebration of 100 years of provincial parks in BC, I think not! This was nothing but another example of the disconnect between our government and the citizens of BC. What a sad comment on the state of our provincial government who used the guise of rolling out a program for children to cover its inadequacy. Shame on you Mr. Lake. Shame on you!

Sandra Holmes

Clearwater, B.C.