Do you want to help visitors discover the best of the area, and enjoy a summer kicking back in beautiful parks? If yes, you’d probably do well as a B.C. Parks host.
Hosts, who are volunteers, enhance visitor services, greet park visitors and are on-hand with information about attractions and happenings in the area. They’re usually holed up at one of the campsites at BC Parks over summer – including right here at the Mount Fernie Provincial Park.
“It’s super helpful for guests to have someone that’s super knowledgeable in the park just here to give out information about the area, and the park itself, and facilities and policies,” said Jenna Gyurkovits, who is the owner of EK Parks which is the contractor for Mount Fernie.
“We keep the job description (for hosts) pretty loose because people bring different things to the table,” she said, explaining that many are handy or helpful, and all of them have local knowledge to share.
The current host at Mount Fernie is none other than Wayne Stetski, who used to be the district manager overseeing the management of all Provincial Parks in the Kootenays in a previous life – he brings with him the experience and knowledge of having been to all the other parks.
“(Visitors) are often looking for where to go next and what to do next – and I’ve been there.”
Stetski, who is being a volunteer host for the first time this year, said that for him it was about giving back.
“For me BC parks was so good to me for so long. I had 29 years working for BC parks. I love parks, and its an opportunity to give back, because the parks really gave a lot to me in the time I was there.”
While he’ll be cutting his stay short given the looming Federal election (Stetski is the NDP nominee for Kootenay-Columbia), he said he was enjoying his time helping visitors.
“Just over the last week I’ve helped people looking for Fairy Creek Falls, Island Lake Lodge – looking for campsites too of course. So we’ll carry brochures about the features around here as well. It helps enhance businesses as well, carrying that kind of information.”
The volunteer host program is always after new volunteers. If you think you’d like to give it a go, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Mount Fernie Provincial Park is right in the middle of a wildlife corridor that connects the backcountry with the Elk River – making it a prime place to see bears and moose.
The park is currently trialling WildsafeBC’s ‘Bare Campsite Program’ which is designed to reduce attractants and educate visitors about camping around wildlife by educating them on best practices on ways to reduce animal encounters.
Gyurkovits said that the program, which is the same as a program used in Ucluelet, was proving valuable in Fernie as it was in Ucluelet.
“(In Ucluelet) before they started the program they were destroying 2-3 bears per year. In the 20 years they’ve been doing it, only 2 bears have been destroyed. The success of this program in that park is very measurable.”
Emma Genest, who is a BC Parks operator at Mount Fernie Provincial Park said that the program gave operators more information to pass along to visitors in the form of pamphlets and cards.
“Last year we would talk to campers when they came in, and we didn’t really have tools to give campers …With the program we have pamphlets and signs and cards we can hand out.”
Genest said that the difference in camping etiquette was very noticeable.
“(Last year) driving around the park we’d always be on high alert, looking into every site trying to see what’s been left out. You were always a bit stressed out in the afternoons with everybody out and about – we could take away up to 8 coolers from sites around the park. This year, driving around, all the sites are pristine and very little is left out. People are doing a great job, and it makes our job very easy.”
Gyurkovits said that given Mount Fernie was a gateway park that many visitors stopped at before travelling further into B.C., it was a valuable program to be trialling.
“They’re coming, and learning better behaviour for the rest of their trip.”
Should the program be a success in the reduction of wildlife encounters, it will be rolled out to other parks in the area.
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