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BC Parks History and Service

B.C. was the first western province to begin establishing provincial parks, beginning with Vancouver Island’s Strathcona Provincial Park in 1911. By 1930, 13 provincial parks were set aside and another 50 areas were reserved for the pleasure and recreation of the public.


March 1, 1911:
The First Provincial Park

Strathcona, located in the heart of Vancouver Island, was British Columbia's first provincial park.
Strathcona Park was named for Donald Alexander Smith, First Baron Strathcona, and Mount Royal, a Canadian pioneer and one of the principals in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

It covers over 250,000 hectares of beautiful rugged mountain peaks, ancient forests, and breathtaking bodies of water.

Young Men Forest Development Program

When the Great Depression began in 1929, the government had to find ways to cope with the rising tide of the unemployed.

Forest work camps were established throughout B.C. in lands set aside as parks, where the demand for roads, trails and visitor facilities was evident.
While the depression was a hard time for many, it led to the beginnings of a much greater infrastructure for park facilities and park maintenance.

British Columbia Parks Section Established

Forest Branch established in 1939. In May 1948, name changed to Parks Division, Forest Service.

British Columbia Parks Division Established

Parks and Recreation became a separate division of the B.C. Forest Branch in 1948, with a staff of 14. Its mandate is to provide parks for recreational opportunities for British Columbians. Cultus lake almost immediately became a park and was proven to be very popular.

British Columbia. Parks and Recreation Division

British Columbia Forest Service: Parks

The Parks and Recreation Division was part of the Forest Branch, Dept. of Lands and Forests from 1949 to 1957. The main objective of the division was to plan, develop and maintain a parks system including campsites, roadside picnic areas and marinas, capable of meeting the non-urban recreational needs of the people of British Columbia.

Parks Branch Created

British Columbia Parks Branch patch This patch was worn only on the left pocket of the shirt. It is seen in images from 1959 and as late as 1970.

In the early years, there was no department specifically designated to manage parks. Instead, parks were managed alongside forestry and logging.

During the late 1940s and into the 1950s, with the rising number of provincial parks, it became clear that establishing "parks" as its own department was a serious and wise use of resources.

In 1957, the distinction between park management and forest management was recognized, and the Department of Recreation and Conservation was created. It included a Parks Branch, independent of the Forest Service.

As of March 28, 1957, the name of the branch changed and began to report to the newly formed Dept. of Recreation and Conservation. The main objective of the division was to plan, develop and maintain a parks system including campsites, roadside picnic areas and marinas, capable of meeting the non-urban recreational needs of the people of British Columbia. Lands and waters for the use and enjoyment of the public were obtained, largely through establishing reserves of Crown Lands. When necessary to complete a land system of parks or a water system of marinas, acquisition is by purchase. Occasionally a gift of an area was made by a public-spirited citizen.

Park Act Passed by the Legislature

The patch on the left first appears in the 1971 Annual Report and again in the 1976 report, but the patch pair on the right is clearly seen in the 1973 report – the triangle patch was worn on the pocket, while the half-moons were worn on the sleeves. The pair was likely used until 1978, and the 1973 image is just a recycled image, or an old shirt being worn.

The Park Act Legislation set out the legal framework for the protection and management of parks and recreation areas.

This was part of an emerging recognition of the importance of parks for nature-based recreation and conservation, and the importance of having a minister of the government specifically responsible for parks management.

Ecological Reserve Act

British Columbia became the first province in Canada to formalize and give permanent status to ecological reserves, "for the purposes of natural heritage preservation and scientific research."

Within a year, 34 reserves were established, mainly for the preservation of plant ecosystems and bird colonies.

Today there are almost 150 ecological reserves protecting over 162,000 hectares of land.

British Columbia Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing

1980 un-official patch worn on Vancouver Island

The Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing was established on December 5, 1978 by the amalgamation of the Parks Branch of the former Ministry of Recreation and Conservation, the Land Management Branch of Ministry of the Environment, and the housing functions of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing (OIC 3018/78).

In January 1979 the name changed again to the Parks and Outdoor Recreation Deptartment, and in May of that year, it changed to Parks and Outdoor Recreation Division.

The main functions of the ministry were to: (1) administer the Crown land resource of the Province; (2) to encourage outdoor recreation, establish parks and conserve the natural scenic and historic features of the Province; (3) to undertake programs relating to the provision of housing in the Province; (4) and to administer and enforce safety standards respecting recreational activities and services on Crown land.

The ministry was organized into three sections, one each for lands, parks and outdoor recreation, and housing. An assistant deputy minister headed each section. The Lands section was responsible for the Land Management Branch, Water Rights Branch, Legal Surveys Branch, and the University Endowment Lands Administration. The Parks and Outdoor Recreation section was responsible for preserving and managing the natural and historical heritage of the province in terms of the lands, water, wildlife and historical resources to ensure their preservation, and to provide outdoor recreation opportunities to all residents. The Housing section was responsible for ensuring that all citizens had access to affordable housing of adequate quality.

British Columbia Ministry of Environment and Parks

Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing was disestablished in 1986 (OIC 1491/86). The parks function from the Ministry of Lands, Parks and Housing, was merged with the Ministry of Environment. As a result of this addition to its functions, the Ministry of Environment became known as the Ministry of Environment and Parks (OIC 1495/86). All functions relating to Crown lands were transferred to the Ministry of Forests and Lands. All housing functions were transferred to the Ministry of Social Services and Housing.

British Columbia. Ministry of Parks

July 6, 1988, the park function was removed and transferred to the newly established Ministry of Parks. A separate Ministry of Environment was established. (OIC 1307/88)

British Columbia. Ministry of Lands and Parks

On April 15, 1991, the Ministry of Parks and the Ministry of Crown Lands were disestablished and the Ministry of Lands and Parks was created. (OIC 497/91)

British Columbia Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks

On November 5, 1991, the Ministry of Environment was disestablished. Its functions were then merged with the functions of the Ministry of Lands and Parks to create a new ministry called the Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks. (OIC 1374-91)

As a result of many years of being bounced around various ministries and having 4 different ministry named shoulder flashes in 13 years, a generic BC Parks shoulder flash and hat crest was introduced.

The generic patch was replaced in approximately 1996 with a “tombstone” shaped patch that was based on the original 1957 patch. The patch background was changed slightly, and a "Ranger" tab was added several years later. In 2020, a one-piece Velcro-backed version was created for use on outerwear. There is also a miniaturized ball-cap version.


Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection

existing from 2001/06/05 to 2005/06/15. (OIC 557-2001)

Ministry of Environment

created 2005/06/16 (OIC 450/2005)

British Columbia Parks Ranger patch

A Brief History of BC Parks part 1 A Brief History of BC Parks part 2