A recent study conducted by the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC (ORCBC) outlines the importance of investing in the long-term success of the province’s trails, parks and outdoor spaces.
Their second annual survey of outdoor recreation participation habits and preferences shows that nearly seven in ten adults in B.C. participated in outdoor recreation in the last year, about 2.8 million people in B.C.
“Trails and outdoor spaces offer an incredible number of benefits to individuals and communities in British Columbia, including opportunities for physical activity, promoting mental well-being and social connectedness, and helping us experience nature. The survey results reaffirm this,” said Louise Pedersen, Executive Director of the Outdoor Recreation Council of BC, in a press release.
The ORCBC, an organization representing more than 70 outdoor recreation organizations in the province, completed the survey with help from Ipsos, a market research company.
They surveyed 800 people in May 2023 on their relationship with trails and parks, the perceived maintenance requirements of trails, and more.
The release of the survey results coincide with BC Trails Day which takes place on Saturday (June 3), which will feature with 77 events in 56 communities across the province.
Results from the survey showed that men have higher rates of participation in outdoor activities than women.
Additionally, young people were more likely to use parks and trails, but their reasons for participation differed from their elders.
People aged 55 and older were far more likely (21 per cent) to use parks and trails to relax and disconnect than those aged 18-34 (10 per cent).
The main reason young people (aged 18-34) gave for spending time on B.C.’s parks and trails was to spend time with friends and family (19 per cent), while those aged 55 and older mainly used parks and trails to be physically active (29 per cent).
“The results of this poll come as no surprise,” added Pedersen. “We continuously hear and see how important outdoor recreation opportunities and public natural spaces are for many British Columbians. What’s new is that we now know that access to outdoor recreation locally and provincially is important to 80 per cent of B.C. residents. We also have a better understanding of what motivates them.”
The survey also showed that more than half of British Columbians believed that trails and parks require paid maintenance by trail crews, however, according to the ORCBC, volunteer groups perform most of the crew work on the province’s trails.
“The need for more volunteers will continue to grow as our trails need more regular maintenance and cleanup when more people venture outdoors, and we need to ensure they are well supported,” said Pedersen.
According to the ORCBC, the growing interest in outdoor recreation means the need for more maintenance dollars, which is recognized more today than ever. Earlier this year, the provincial government announced a one-time grant to establish the Outdoor Recreation Fund of BC which will provide a way for individuals, governments, corporations and foundations to financially support outdoor recreation and its volunteers.
The provincial government also invested $71 million in operating and capital funding over three years to BC Parks and Recreation Sites and Trails BC.
“ORCBC believes we are moving in the right direction, and we still have more work to do to support B.C.’s important outdoor recreation sector,” concluded the ORCBC.