Adding a fee to anything previously free will always result in negativity toward the organization, institution or government deciding to charge for the service.
The new $15 fee at Nanton Lake and Dodd Lake campsites recently announced by BC Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development is no exception.
Regardless of the explanation or reason, which in this case indicates would-be campers at both sites will benefit from campsite availability and additional regular maintenance, it used to be free, and now it is not. Apply that to any scenario and reaction will be swift and direct. Adding the fact that the charges will affect the summer vacations of area residents and visitors only compounds the situation.
Even though many campers are upset with the new fee, reaction on the Peak’s Facebook page has been polarizing. Responses to criticism that the charges will make the sites inaccessible to low-income families include comments that fee-for-service sites prevent campers who abuse the former first-come-first-served system from parking a trailer at a site for an entire summer. That selfish practice does not allow other campers to use the spot when the camper is unoccupied.
More than money is involved, as some families return to the same location year after year for sentimental reasons. In some cases, the fee will not be a deterrent, but for others, an expense of $105 for a week might have them looking elsewhere. There are other free campsites in the region, but trying somewhere new is not an option when traditions come into play.
Fair or unfair, governments are always looking for new sources of income. Will every dollar collected at the 29 campsites at Dodd and Nanton go toward maintenance and more visits from a site host or will some of the funds slide into coffers and be used in other areas?
An extra sets of eyes checking for fires left smouldering and to pick up after people who leave a mess is a plus, but who is going to police those who indicate they will continue to use the campsites and not pay? The site host?
Will RCMP be called to drive into the backcountry to remove non-paying campers? When does collecting the fee become a waste of time and/or money for other institutions?
A site host can take licence plate information, but that will not help anyone looking for a spot in the meantime. And what resources will be used to collect the fines?
Whatever the intentions were for imposing the fee, they may create more problems than they solve.