UBC Theses and Dissertations
An analysis of the regional park policy of the provincial government of British Columbia Hawksworth, Cynthia Diane
In 1965. the provincial government of British Columbia established the legislative authority for a system of 28 regional districts to provide a vehicle for local public input in land use planning and co-ordination of the activities of the various government agencies administering resources and services in an area. The Regional Park Act, also adopted in 1965, permits these regional districts to undertake responsibility for the establishment and maintenance of regional parks, that is, quasi-natural, user-oriented, and easily accessible recreation sites, intended primarily for the use of residents of the region. Interviews with provincial officials and examination of some of their public statements suggest that there are two provincial objectives regarding this act: 1. To provide accessible recreation opportunities. 2. To reserve land to be developed as regional parks in the future. The purpose of this study is to assess the present regional park policy of the provincial government in terms of the goals for these parks, and to discover factors which have contributed to its apparent lack of success. In addition, an alternative policy which might better meet these objectives and methods for its implementation is proposed. The appropriateness of the objectives for regional parks, however, is not examined. The analysis consists of an examination of a two-fold hypothesis: 1. Regional governments do not become involved in the development of regional parks because they are not politically motivated to do so. The relatively small size of most regional districts' populations, limited urbanization, and the general rural or undeveloped character of the regional districts do not create a demand for such parks. In the majority of the regional districts, special circumstances do not stimulate regional action. 2. Although regional districts use fiscal restraints as a justification for not undertaking the regional parks function, financial limitations are not a prohibitive barrier to the development of regional parks. The methods of investigation employed were a questionnaire survey of representatives of the 28 regional districts, a further survey of the secretary-treasurers of five regional districts, and a case study of the process by which the North Okanagan Regional Board decided to undertake responsibility for regional parks in 1974. It would appear that the existing regional park policy of the Province is inadequate to meet these objectives. By December 1973, only seven of the 28 regional districts had assumed the regional parks function for all member areas and only five others had adopted it for part of their area. Furthermore, of 23 regional governments who responded to a request for information on progress made in relation to regional parks, only four have established more than two parks. The remainder have either not adopted the regional parks function, remain at the stage of planning for the development of parks, or maintain only one regional park. The results of the investigation indicate that the absolute and relative costs of regional parks are small. Fiscal limitations, therefore, should not and do not constitute an absolute barrier to regional district involvement in the regional park function. Thus, there must be some other reason for the regional governments' lack of interest in regional parks. Three alternative explanations are proposed and examined. The evidence indicates that the basis of regional districts' apathy is that residents of these regions simply do not feel that these parks are important enough to spend tax money on. Thus, if the provincial government wishes to ensure that land is set aside for future regional parks, it must, itself, take responsibility for preserving these lands. The regional governments could then assume the responsibility for the lands when they are politically motivated to become involved in the regional parks function. A two-pronged regional park policy is, therefore, recommended to the provincial government. 1. The provincial government should take responsibility for preserving parkland to meet future demand for regional parks. Although some legislative tools for implementing this policy already exist, there is a need for coordination and organization. 2. The provincial government should smooth the way for those regional governments which become interested in involvement in the regional parks function.