Campers crack 8,700 visits to Peace Island Park in 2014

Barb Bell says Peace Island Park continues to draw in more local residents year after year.

Visits to Peace Island Park took another big leap in 2014, and operators are expecting another record-breaking year for 2015.

There were 8,771 site visits at the park in 2014, according to year end figures found in District of Taylor’s 2014 annual report released last week. That’s up from 7,664 in 2013, and up from just 5,469 bookings seen in 2010.

“I’m feeling it,” laughed park operator Barb Bell.

“I expect it to be busier this year than last year.”

The stats include both individual and group site bookings. Broken down, the park saw a total of 8,098 individual site visits, and 673 group visits, according to the report.

Bell, in her sixth year as operator, says local and area residents are driving the increases as the park gains popularity. Peace Island is becoming a destination for weddings, with 16 already booked for this year, along with family and company barbecues.

“A lot of people thought the park is just what they can see from the highway, but we have 3.5 kilometres of campsites, right up to the ski hill,” said Bell.

“The last year and this year, we’re seeing a lot of people in Fort St. John and area moving here, and that has increased our camping as well.”

That’s not to say tourists are being drawn to the park as well — although just 325 tourists are reported to have used the park last year, according to the report.

The average length of stay at the park is three days, said Bell, and that she works hard to ensure that Peace Island doesn’t become a “work park.”

“There’s a need. I could probably fill the park with workers right now, but Taylor doesn’t want that,” she said.

“It’s there for the people.”

The park pulled in profits of about $50,000 for the district last year, posting revenues of $180,000 against $130,000 in expenses, according to the report.

Bell said construction has begun on the creation of 22 new, full service campsites on the south side of Big Bam Road. BC Hydro struck a deal with Taylor to fund the new campsites as part of its plan to build the Site C dam.

The park is also looking to build three new group sites along Big Bam Road and hopes to begin construction later this year.

The park is owned by Hydro and leased back to Taylor to maintain and operate.

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