The Pacific Rim National Park Reserve has launched a new reservation system in the Broken Group Islands that has upset kayak guides who believe the change was unnecessary and could force paddlers into dangerous waters.
“I don’t think it’s been well thought out on the safety aspect and all of the kayakers are basically hung up on that point,” said Tracy Eeftink, co-owner of Majestic Ocean Kayaking and a member of the Sea Kayaking Guides of BC. SKGBC has been lobbying against the new reservation system since the change was announced last year.
Eeftink and Majestic have been offering kayaking experiences around the Broken Group Islands for roughly 25 years and said she has never had an issue that the new reservation system would have helped. She added she was surprised that SKGBC was never consulted before the change was implemented.
There are seven islands within the Broken Group, which can only be accessed by vessel. Eeftink said requiring reservations for each island could force paddlers coming in late at night to push themselves to the island they’ve reserved, rather than landing safely on the closest one.
“Everybody just manages to squeeze in and sometimes maybe there might be too many people on that island but at least you’re on land and you’re not out in the middle of the ocean. You made it somewhere,” she said. “If somebody comes in late, you do your best to help people.”
The Park Reserve’s Visitor Experience Manager Dave Tovell said the Park Reserves other camping sites, like Greenpoint Campground and the West Coast Trail, have reservation systems and that a system for the Broken Group Islands has been in the works for roughly 10 years.
“In the past, it’s all been first come, first serve,” Tovvel said. “If you were coming from around the world, or from Tofino, Ukee or Bamfield, you were just taking your chances and hoping there was room on the island you were going to.”
He acknowledged SKGBC’s concerns, but said he’s confident those concerns will subside once people see the reservation system working.
“I’m not surprised with any negative feedback. It’s a change and people are comfortable. It’s been this way for many years, but we really think it’s a positive change,” he said. “People will see that we’re flexible and the system is flexible and it will work out to everyone’s needs.”
He said reservations will operate on a three-days-notice cancellation system and added that Park Reserve staffers will be understanding of “extenuating circumstances.”
“But, we don’t want people holding onto reservations and then cancelling at the last minute and precluding someone else from coming and booking their trip,” he said.
Tovell said the new system will also help Park Reserve staffers ensure all fees are collected from the Islands’ users. The Islands carry a 14-night maximum stay. Campers may only stay on one specific island for four nights in a row. The rate is $9.80 per person per night.
Tovell said those fees, which are reinvested back into the Park Reserve’s amenities and maintenance, have long been in place, but have been tough for staff to collect.
“Because there is no entry gate, there’s no kiosk, there is no staffed islands, it’s kind of been a free-for-all. Some people have paid, but the majority haven’t paid for the entry fees. So, this year, we’re trying to make a more concentrated effort,” he said. “We haven’t invested a lot of resources in the Broken Group Islands in the last little while. We want to change that.”
Eeftink hopes some of those funds go towards creating more camping spots on the islands to help ease congestion during the busier summer months as the Broken Group is a popular haven for paddlers.
“It’s a really rich and healthy environment. There’s a lot of wildlife; it’s very abundant out there with the sea mammals and intertidal life and all the shorebirds. It’s very special,” she said. “You can have a really, really, good trip no matter what your paddling ability is.”