Broken Group PERMANENTLY CLOSED during fall/winter/spring

JohnAbercrombie

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I just received the SKILS newsletter and found this information.
I'm surprised that there hasn't been more attention (outcry?) from the paddling community.

Closing the Broken Group Islands (BGI) to recreational and commercial users outside of the official fee collection period. More specifically from October 1 to April 30 every year.


Behind the scenes, over the years SKILS and SKILS staff have been involved with organizations that represent the interests of the paddling community. Recently we have been fighting the permanent full closure of the BGI from October 1 to April 30. As a community we need to act in solidarity otherwise the right to enjoy the wilderness and our beautiful country will keep being encroached.

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.

Suggestions
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 (dave.tovell@canada.ca) and Karen Haugen, Superintendent at Pacific Rim National Park Reserve(karen.haugen@canada.ca)

Please email or write to Dave Tovell and Karen Haugan with your thoughts on the closure.
The Federal Minister responsible is Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Environment and Climate Change (Jonathan.Wilkinson@parl.gc.ca)
The MP for the area is Gord Johns (Gord.Johns@parl.gc.ca)

 

btech

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Nov 12, 2013
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Are you able to find any mention of this closure? Parks Canada mentions the BGI being closed this off-season due to Covid restrictions, but I don't see any mention of this becoming a regular thing.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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I emailed Mr Tovell and Ms Haugan - both are 'on leave' so I'm hoping for a reply and clarification in January when they return to work.

In the meantime, contacting SKILS for more information may be useful: info@skils.ca
 

JohnAbercrombie

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I emailed SKILS last evening and this morning I received a reply from JF Marleau. In his email he notes:

Hi John,

Thank you very much for your support. It means a lot. The closure of the BGI outside the official fee collecting season from October 1 to April 30 is permanent and was decided before COVID appeared on the radar. I have emails with Dave Tovell from Parks Canada as evidence. I would like to suggest you contact Dave Tovell and Karen Haugen and you will be shocked. ..................

................. This is total nonsense. Parks Canada will give you a fine and kick you out if you camp in the BGI outside the official fee collecting season.

Thank you for your support

Let me know if you have any questions

JF
Aside from contacting Karen Haugan, Dave Tovell, Jonathan Livingston and Gord Johns you may want to add the following to your email list:

Ron Hallman
Parks Canada President and CEO
ron.hallman@canada.ca


Helen Davies
Field Unit Superintendent Coastal British Columbia
helen.davies@canada.ca

Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
pc.pacrim.info.pc@canada.ca
 

btech

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Nov 12, 2013
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Interesting, thanks for looking into this John. Will follow closely, and eagerly wait for the reply from Dave and Karen. I still feel as though Parks Canada will have a difficult time enforcing and collecting fines if there is no mention of this closure to the public on any of there platforms.
 

jefffski

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found this
  • It is illegal to camp anywhere in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve without a valid camping permit, including the Broken Group Islands.

So, if you need a permit to camp, but you can only get a permit in the summer, the area is not open otherwise. This is a very poor way of saying what the OP said.
 

Jurfie

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Sounds like they are worried about people getting themselves into trouble in the off-season. Not really different than back country hiking and camping in the winter though; be prepared and ready to wait for help if you need it and be willing to take the risk of encountering severe weather.

Sell us a permit with a disclaimer and/or release in the off-season.
 
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JohnAbercrombie

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found this
  • It is illegal to camp anywhere in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve without a valid camping permit, including the Broken Group Islands.

So, if you need a permit to camp, but you can only get a permit in the summer, the area is not open otherwise. This is a very poor way of saying what the OP said.
This is a change from a few years ago where the rules said that a permit was required to camp from May 1 to Oct 1. I've ONLY camped in the Broken Group in the 'off-season' on the few times I've been there (because I like the weather and don't like crowds), and I know I wouldn't have gone if I'd thought that the Parks Canada 'hired enforcers' were going to hassle me.
 

JohnAbercrombie

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Sounds like they are worried about people getting themselves into trouble in the off-season. Not really different than back country hiking and camping in the winter though; be prepared and ready to wait for help if you need it and be willing to take the risk of encountering severe weather.

Sell us a permit with a disclaimer and/or release in the off-season.
:thumbsup::thumbsup:

Exactly.
And, it isn't as though Parks Canada are ever there to help anyway. It's always up to the Coast Guard to deal with rescues (and the RCMP to deal with conflicts ??) in the BGI....that's my understanding from what I've been told.
 

alexsidles

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Seattle WA
Under US law, the seasonal closure of camping in a national park, where such use had been allowed for decades, would have to be:
  • Based upon a determination that such action is necessary for the maintenance of public health and safety, protection of environmental or scenic values, protection of natural or cultural resources, aid to scientific research, implementation of management responsibilities, equitable allocation and use of facilities, or the avoidance of conflict among visitor use activities; and
  • Subject to public notice and an opportunity for the public to comment; and
  • Subject to challenge in federal court.
See 31 CFR § 1.5 (Closures and public use limits).

In a successful challenge, a court would overturn the closure if the court was convinced that the Park Service’s closure decision was arbitrary and capricious; or that the Park Service had deprived the public of notice and opportunity to comment. See 5 USC § 706(2)(A); (D).

“Arbitrary and capricious” decisions are those where the agency fails to “examine the relevant data and articulate a satisfactory explanation for [the] action including a rational connection between the facts found and the choice made.” Motor Veh. Mfrs. Ass'n v. State Farm Ins., 463 U.S. 29 (1983).

All of which is to say, a US national park could not get away with shutting down camping for half the year in a secret, closed-door decision not justified by data—and if they tried, the park-goers could take them to court. (And, if the park-goers won, they would most likely get their attorney fees paid by the government under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 28 USC § 2412(d)(1)(A) (subject to various limits in the act). Many American lawyers take on cases against federal agencies on a fee-contingency basis, where the clients only pay the lawyers the amount they win from the government, and nothing if they lose.)

These provisions of US law give the public more of an equal footing in disputes with the Park Sevice, helping keep unelected government officials accountable to citizens. I wonder if similar tools are available in Canada.

Alex
 
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kyushmanova

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Hey guys, has anyone heard any confirmation that the intended winter closure is beyond the 2020-2021 season? Just want to be sure that I am hearing and reading this correctly.
 

Tangler

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I was certainly very sad to hear of this closure as I have had a number of special Thanksgiving (Canadian) trips to the BGIs.
When I brought this to the attention of my wife she brought up a number of salient points, being very learned in this area...
So, apparently:
In Canada National parks do not exist primarily as playgrounds for people. They are there primarly for their protection/existence only and human use is permitted so long as it does not impact the integrity of the ecology. Therefore Parks can limit human access as and when they see fit. Also if they do allow people in they are responsible for ensuring that the park is not overly impacted and for minimizing hazards to people and rescuing them when necessary.
The other major issue is that Parks are woefully underfunded. You can thank the series of conservative governments we had for most of that. A lot of the park employees are seasonal.
The effects of this can be seen in many parks around the country such as the reduction in climbing permits in Kluane.
There is a rescue group for Pac Rim that is based in Tofino, responsible for rescues throughout the park but it is only seasonal and therefore not available "off season".
Given this lack of funding (which Parks employees would not be able to confirm as the root reason) it is understandable that Parks is going to concentrate its meagre resources were the impacts are greatest (front country, peak season).
All our logical and reasonable entreaties about self-sufficiency etc may therefore not have a great impact on the situation.
Not a reason to give up though. I myself will be sending an email asking, pretty please, if they would consider extending the camping season from Easter to Thanksgiving.
 
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JohnAbercrombie

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Hey guys, has anyone heard any confirmation that the intended winter closure is beyond the 2020-2021 season? Just want to be sure that I am hearing and reading this correctly.
The winter closure has nothing to do with COVID-19, and discussions on that issue between Parks Canada and some commercial operators started before COVID-19 appeared here.
ParksCanada is taking the position that this is nothing new and that camping has never been allowed in the BGI between Oct 1 and May 1.
This is not true.
In years past it was clear that a permit was required to camp in the BGI during the May 1 - Oct 1 'summer season', but a permit was not required in the 'winter' season.
ParksCanada is using COVID and references to First Nations to obfuscate the issue.

The only reply I've gotten to my (several) emails is from Helen Davies.

In part, she said:
This is not a new decision. However, it seems that this information may not have been clearly communicated.
We welcome the opportunity to discuss this with you further, as we value your feedback.

To contact Helen Davies and provide feedback, here is her contact information:
Helen Davies
Field Unit Superintendent, Coastal BC Field Unit
Parks Canada / Government of Canada
2220 Harbour Road, Sidney, B.C. V8L 2P6
helen.davies@canada.ca / Tel: (250) 654-4048 / Cell: (250) 812-1701


 

KayakNinja

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Great to see this discussion here. Technically it should be Parks Canada staff managing incidents and performing rescues and evacuations within the PRNPR. However, the closest Coast Guard Station is in Bamfield and there is also the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Auxiliary based in Ucluelet. It would be interesting to see the statistics for off-season incidents involving kayakers and campers. If the purpose of closing the BGI in the off-season was to mitigate incidents, then I imagine it would be necessary to close it to ALL boaters.
 
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JohnAbercrombie

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Great to see this discussion here. Technically it should be Parks Canada staff managing incidents and performing rescues and evacuations within the PRNPR. However, the closest Coast Guard Station is in Bamfield and there is also the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue Auxiliary based in Ucluelet. It would be interesting to see the statistics for off-season incidents involving kayakers and campers. If the purpose of closing the BGI in the off-season was to mitigate incidents, then I imagine it would be necessary to close it to ALL boaters.
The 'difficult rescues in winter due to fewer staff' argument from ParksCanada is a classic 'red herring'.
( Red herring is a seemingly plausible, though ultimately irrelevant, diversionary tactic. ...wikipedia)

Here's some info that applies to the Victoria area - where there are likely more unskilled paddlers than there would be in the Broken Group in winter.
From the August 2020 SISKA (South Island Sea Kayak Association) newsletter:

No Coast Guard Emergency Response Required for Sea Kayakers in 2019 and 2020
So Far!
by Alan Campbell

The May 2020 Newsletter article "Canadian Coast Guard Urges BC Boaters to
Stay Home" reported the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) concern that small
boaters may unduly stress marine emergency resources during the Covid-19
pandemic. When I called to inquire about the extent to which sea kayakers
had needed emergency response, I was asked to make a formal Access to
Information request and the results have recently been received.
As requested, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Victoria has
provided marine search and rescue emergency call-out data from January 2019
to June 2020 including date, time, nature of incident, type of vessel
involved and how the incident was resolved, with respect to calls involving
pleasure craft in the area of South Vancouver Island.
The somewhat surprising finding from a review of this information is that of
all 122 responses recorded (84 in 2019, and 38 to June 2020), none involved
a sea kayak
. The very great majority of vessels are identified as Motor
Craft and a small number classified as Open Boat, variously described as
small skiffs or dinghies.
Sea kayakers have been staying safe or effecting needed rescues themselves,
and have not required emergency response by the Canadian Coast Guard. Keep up the
good work!!
Anyone interested in the details can find the full 10-page pdf file at
https://drive.google.com/file/d/12uioJCT-mvl9ZX8ccoGMmfUHjAL4lEDA/view?usp=sharing
 

kyushmanova

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Good insights, thank you guys. As a BC local, I feel like shoulder season and off season travel is often the only time when it is possible to avoid crowds and keep costs down. Thus loosing this location would be a major blow. I do wonder what the statistics are on the winter use and how they are being interpreted. For example, if you see that the number of users in winter time is very low, you can say “well, barely anyone is there, so closing it wouldn’t affect many.” When in real life the few folks who do go out there off season get a huge value out of it, have minimal impact, and help diminish summer crowds. And a lot of advanced training happens there during the shoulder seasons.
 

KayakNinja

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Joined
Mar 23, 2018
Messages
6
Location
Strange Island
The 'difficult rescues in winter due to fewer staff' argument from ParksCanada is a classic 'red herring'.
( Red herring is a seemingly plausible, though ultimately irrelevant, diversionary tactic. ...wikipedia)

Here's some info that applies to the Victoria area - where there are likely more unskilled paddlers than there would be in the Broken Group in winter.
From the August 2020 SISKA (South Island Sea Kayak Association) newsletter:

No Coast Guard Emergency Response Required for Sea Kayakers in 2019 and 2020
So Far!
by Alan Campbell

The May 2020 Newsletter article "Canadian Coast Guard Urges BC Boaters to
Stay Home" reported the Canadian Coast Guard (CCG) concern that small
boaters may unduly stress marine emergency resources during the Covid-19
pandemic. When I called to inquire about the extent to which sea kayakers
had needed emergency response, I was asked to make a formal Access to
Information request and the results have recently been received.
As requested, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Victoria has
provided marine search and rescue emergency call-out data from January 2019
to June 2020 including date, time, nature of incident, type of vessel
involved and how the incident was resolved, with respect to calls involving
pleasure craft in the area of South Vancouver Island.
The somewhat surprising finding from a review of this information is that of
all 122 responses recorded (84 in 2019, and 38 to June 2020), none involved
a sea kayak
. The very great majority of vessels are identified as Motor
Craft and a small number classified as Open Boat, variously described as
small skiffs or dinghies.
Sea kayakers have been staying safe or effecting needed rescues themselves,
and have not required emergency response by the Canadian Coast Guard. Keep up the
good work!!
Anyone interested in the details can find the full 10-page pdf file at
https://drive.google.com/file/d/12uioJCT-mvl9ZX8ccoGMmfUHjAL4lEDA/view?usp=sharing
Thank you for the phenomenal resource!
 

AlphaEcho

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Joined
Jan 24, 2010
Messages
110
Location
Quadra Island, BC
Credit to JF Marleau for raising the alarm. This does not affect just guides and outfitters, but the community in general.

I am not surprised to hear that the Parks Canada managers are "off for the holidays". Nor will I be surprised to see photos on Instagram and FaceBook tagged with BGI over the holidays.

It's been said already during this pandemic, there is no point in declaring an unenforceable order. It only brings the system into disrepute. A system must exist, because there's no point in anarchy either. That's how people get hurt. Compare to my comments above.

People (and by "people" I mean rational humans) will play by the rules if they are fair and enforced fairly. Let's hope we see some intelligent negotiating in the January meeting.
 
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