Mungall Stands Up For Cody Caves Provincial Park

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CHANGlobal BC News Hour

23-Jul-2010 18:23

Deb Hope: For years now Cody Caves Provincial Park has been the site of one of the most unique and facinating wilderness experiences in the province. You can find Cody Caves on the west side of Kootenay Lake near Ainsworth Hot Springs just northeast of Nelson. And up until a few weeks ago you could take a fascinating tour of a network of caves lined with ancient, natural formations. But the man who runs that tourist attraction says a change the government made to provincial park fees has killed his business.

Ron Bencze: From the parking lot it is a quick and easy hike to the entrance of one of BC’s unique natural wonders. But this season the main attraction of Cody Caves Provincial Park remains closed – locked behind a metal gate. The operator claiming he can no longer afford to keep the park running.

Kevin Stanway: We can’t get in the cave today because there is no permit for tours and so the cave has had extra locks applied so that it is extra secure for conservation reasons.

Ron Bencze: For the past 20 years thousands of tourists have been awed by the cave’s stonewalls. Tunnels of limestone carved out by water millions of years ago. The park, the first in BC established for the protection of an underground cave.

Kevin Stanway: One of the few parks or few caves anywhere that is easily accessible by the general public and so it makes for an excellent opportunity to educate people about caves and their importance in our environment.

Ron Bencze: But in 2006 the provincial government changed the fee structure for park operators. For Cody Caves their permit fee went from a flat rate of $265 a year to over $4,000. For the past three years the owner has kept the park operating by dipping into his own savings, something he says he can no longer afford.

Kevin Stanway: And the change in fee structure made it really difficult to operate. It was very much a contributing factor to make the business less and less viable.

Michelle Mungall: They are looking at a particular levy based on the gross income of park operators and tour operators and it is a very different scenario to compare what Cody Caves operations are to for instance someone who does outftting, outfit guiding in an established park where there is already park employees. We don’t have that here at Cody Caves. We need to look at these two different situations. Look at the two different business models and have an appropriate fee structure for the two of them.

Ron Bencze: Stanway says discussions with BC Parks have gone nowhere. The government says the fee structure can’t be changed to accommodate individual operators adding tenders for a new operator may need to be issued if a resolution can’t be found.

Deb Hope: And in fact the provincial government says it is putting out tenders for a new park operator starting next week.