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BC Marine Trails: Preserving BC coastal access for small craft users.

Drake Island in Quatsino Sound

First Nations have freely travelled the coast of BC in canoes for thousands of years.  It has been 50 years since the first recreational kayakers ventured out to explore and enjoy this same wild and majestic coastline, relatively free to stop and camp anywhere along the way.

Any restrictions to that applied only to the populated, developed areas with increasing portions of private land.  Crown lands and parks were very available, and for the most part, still are.

Competition for public land use however, is growing significantly along the BC coast because of the increasing pressures of resource based and other industries, and the needs of a growing population. The BCMTNA is the recognized advocate for defending and promoting continued public use of marine sites identified over the years as most popular and necessary for small boat users to enable travel and recreation along the coast.

The BCMTNA negotiates and works with government agencies responsible for the allocation and use of crown lands to ensure increased protection on necessary sites as well as specifying access within provincial and national parks. It also consults and negotiates with industries – timber harvesting, aquaculture, other resource extraction companies, as well as many other stakeholders with an interest in the coastal land base.

So, this advocacy necessitates many meetings, discussions, and compromises with First Nations and many different agencies and stakeholder groups. Some more examples:

  • Recreation Sites and Trails BC
  • BC Parks
  • Parks Canada
  • Municipality and Regional District boards,
  • their various parks boards,
  • community associations,
  • and concerned private citizens and landowners - regarding the impact of possible access points with overnight parking and campsites nearby
  • First Nations, the historic users of the trails, and who have a strong say in coastal management and use
  • Commercial recreation outfitters and resorts

Stewardship, as we move forward with these negotiations, plays a big part in our successes, as all landowners and stakeholders are concerned about user impact.  Because of this, stewardship has become the other arm of the core work of the volunteers of the BCMTNA.

The BCMTNA website is how we communicate the extensive data on sites and access points that has been compiled over the years to users and the public.  Its map is the core repository for this data. The website also offers many other resources for interested users and is one of the most comprehensive water trails websites in the world.


So what has the BCMTNA accomplished over the past 10 years to improve this scenario?  Answer: a lot really, but the project is so huge that not too much yet is easily visible. (We have 27,000 km of coastline in BC to work with).  The work will never be really finished, as times and circumstances change.

The BCMTNA is a volunteer based charitable organization whose mandate is:

  • to work to preserve a network of access points and campsites along the BC coast, and
  • to conduct stewardship programs to help protect the coastal environment

We are working to ensure that the public continues to be able to paddle the coast and land and camp where they need into the future, like they can today.

So, what can you see of the work of the BCMTNA?

  • The BCMTNA map shows both sites approved for use by various government agencies/ stakeholders, and those sites on crown lands with established use patterns but not yet officially approved. There are several approved sites including six campsites on the Sea to Sky Marine Trail and Musgrave Point. There are a number of sites currently going through an approval process to become recreation sites.
  • Signage going up on BC recreation reserves.
  • Signs beginning to appear within BC Parks, national parks, demonstrating that particular campsites are on a BCMTN route.
  • Signage is now appearing on BC Marine Trails’ access points. We work with municipalities and regional districts.

What you don’t see?

  • One paid operations assistant
  • A very determined, and dedicated board members/committee members, who give up large portions of their free time to do the work that they do, for the benefit of present day users and future paddlers of the BCMTNA
  • Dozens of meetings to advocate for recreationists and paddlers


The public can support the BCMTN in a number of ways:

  1. Becoming a member of the BC Marine Trails Network. The funds are used to not only support membership but helps pay other costs.
  2. Using the trails in a respectful manner and reporting any issues to the Association.
  3. Helping with Site Condition Reporting. That is, using the ‘Site Condition Report’ (under ‘Caring for the Trails’ on our website) and reporting on the conditions of sites.
  4. Participating in volunteer activities. We do need people, for example, to help with clean ups.
  5. Donating to the BCMTNA.

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