CLEARWATER – The busy summer camping season launched today with a new passport program that offers British Columbians – especially families – one more reason to visit B.C. parks this summer, Environment Minister Terry Lake announced.

The BC Parks 100 Passport – available free starting today at participating provincial parks and visitor centres – offers kids of all ages a chance to collect stamps and win prizes by visiting provincial parks.

Similar programs in the Yukon and national parks systems have been successful in increasing park visits, and Lake anticipates a rise in visits to B.C. parks this summer. B.C. parks typically get about 20 million visitors a year.

The passport program, which runs until Sept. 30, 2011, is the latest incentive for families to get out and enjoy B.C. parks. On May 3, the Province eliminated parking fees in all provincial parks to help make them more accessible.

Along with the chance to collect stickers and win awards, the passport includes advice on trip- planning, special offers and information about events and activities taking place in B.C. parks this summer.

B.C. has almost 1,000 parks and protected areas, offering amenities including:

  • More than 340 campgrounds.
  • 118 boat launches.
  • 263 day-use areas.
  • Nearly 7,000 kilometres of trails.

Two new online tools are also now available to help people plan their park experience. The Discover Camping system (www.discovercamping.ca) lets you book campsites in advance and a new Google Maps overlay at www.bcparks.ca links you directly to individual park websites. The passport also includes a high-tech feature linking directly to parks information online. Smartphone users can scan an embedded barcode, called a QR code, on the back cover to go straight to the BC Parks 100 web page.