On January 18, 2017, the provincial government released the designs for a trio of new specialty license plates promoting provincial parks and protected areas (to go on sale January 29, 2017). Costing $50 with an annual renewal fee of $40, sales of the plates are to be re-invested back into provincial parks through a newly created "Parks Endowment Fund", which had previously been announced by the Premier in November of 2016.
The announcement completed a promise made by the Premier in November of 2016 to introduce a specialty license plate as a way for motorists to show their support for the parks system and as a funding mechanism for the BC Parks "Future Strategy" and is the first un-restricted specialty plate since the Winter Games (i.e. Olympic) base issued in 2007.
At top (from left to right), Barry Penner (ICBC Chairman), Todd Stone (Minister of Transportation), Mary Polak (Minister of Environment) and someone we don't know at far right at the unveiling of the new BC Parks plates at Jack Poole Plaza in Vancouver on January 18, 2017.
At right, Todd Stone and Mary Polak formally unveiling
the designs of the new BC Parks plates.
The "Kermode Bear" design was chosen to represent the province's "vast, rugged northern region" and because the animal is recognised as a provincial symbol. As well, in 2016 the Great Bear Rainforest Act received Royal Assent.
The "Purcell Mountains" design was chosen to represent the province's "interior region" with the snow capped peaks pictured on the plate being from the Purcell Wilderness Conservancy Provincial Park and Protected Area.
The "Porteau Cove" design was chosen to represent the province's "South Coast region" as it is one of the most popular provincial parks in British Columbia and also represents the most southerly fjord in North America.
For posterity, we have archived ICBC's Bulletin No. 16; "New number plates featuring BC Parks", which provides some basic details on these plates. To access it, Click Here!
The design of the Parks plates stays consistent with the house-style established by ICBC with the Veterans plate in 2004, and which generally involves the use of a photo-realistic background in which the main element is situated to the left side of the plate (think the War Memorial on the Veteran's base or the location of the Silver Cross on the Memorial Cross base) with a continuous registration number (i.e. no separation between the first and last three characters) shifted to the right-side
Unlike the recent Memorial Cross plate (which displays Waldale's "Mississippi Dies"), the die type on the Parks plate is the standard one found on regular issue passenger plates. While the plates do not appear to incorporate the holographic security thread found on regular passenger plates, they are utilising a "high-definition retro-reflective background sheeting" that is supposed to improve the readability of the plates at night.
It is probably also safe to assume that the one-time requirement that all new license plate types incorporate the BC Mark (as opposed to the "Spirit Flag") is officially dead as none of the Parks plate designs display this rising-sun symbol. In another interesting twist, the Corporation is allowing Commercial Trucks (i.e. pick-up trucks & motor-homes) to be issued Parks plates, despite usually being required to display AA-0000 format plates.
The photographer credited with the Kermode Bear and Purcell Mountain bases is John E. Marriott (Wildlife and Nature Photography), while we are still searching for the photographer of the Porteau Cove image:
First Plate(s) in the Series
This is a bit tricky as there are technically three "first" plates in the BC Parks series; one for each of the different designs. Thanks to social media, however, we know that Minister Todd Stone was able to nab the lowest of the low, being the first plate (i.e. "PA001A") on the Kermode base.
Minister Polak appears to have been less concerned with the number appearing on her plate as she has the 5,000th (approx.) plate on the Porteau Cove based affixed to her vehicle. As for who has the first plate on the Porteau base (i.e. "PW001A") and the Purcell base (i.e. PK001A"), they remain to be discovered!
Minister Todd Stone and plate No. PA001A (Kermode).
Minister Mary Polak and plate No. PW005F (Porteau).
Initial Distribution - January 29, 2017
The following is an unofficial attempt to record the initial distribution of the BC Parks plates in an attempt to create a historical record but also to provide a more immediate benefit to motorists seeking a particular combination of letters and numbers. The information has been compiled by contacting Autoplan Agents and utilising the power of social media.
For the hard-core collector and those aspiring to be hard-core, the ultimate quest for the BC Parks plate is obtaining all three bases with the equivalent number (such as the plates shown below - all of which are the 33rd issued for each design!). We hope the list above aids you in your quest, should you choose to accept it. For the uber hard-core player, try getting the same repeating number on your bases!
Over 5,000 Plates Sold - February 22, 2017
On February 22, 2017, ICBC announced what we are hoping is going to be the first of many milestones in the sales of the BC Parks plates, which was the issuance of 5,000 plates. In a sign of the times, they chose to make the announcement via Twitter:
In response, we here at BCpl8s.ca took to Twitter for the first time in order to inquire as to how many of each design had been sold. Happily, the tweeter at ICBC responded with the following break-down (image at top-right): Kermode Bear - 2,328; Purcell Mountains - 1,744 and Porteau Cove - 1,320.
Over 10,000 Plates Sold - March 19, 2017
On March 19, 2017, the provincial government announced 10,000 of the BC Parks plates, have now been sold:
Misleading Fundraising Claims?
For anyone who has followed the growth of specialty plates across North American over the past quarter century knows, one of the more troublesome aspects of these plates is the sometimes huge amounts of money they generate and ensuring that these funds are used as advertised or do not become the subject of out-right fraud. Examples that come to mind include the Tennessee Sportsman's and California Memorial plates whose collected fees were not always used as advertised.
As was commonly reported at the time of their release in January 2017, $33 of the $50 fee was to go to the newly created "Parks Endowment Fund". On March 26, 2017, the CBC ran a story exposing the reality to be something other:
It seems that the actual contribution to the "Parks Endowment Fund" from the sale of each plate is only $15 with the $50 being distributed as follows:
$18: new licence plate fee to provincial government;
$15: directly to B.C. Parks;
$5: ICBC for cost recovery;
$7: plate manufacturing, shipping and handling; and
$5: broker commission.
Will be interesting to see if this story has any legs and what ICBC's response is going to be. Stay tuned.
Over 37,000 Plates Sold - June 28, 2017
On June 28, 2017, the ICBC announced 37,000 of the BC Parks plates, have now been sold, passing a milestone the Corporation had not expected to reach until 2022. The Keremode Bear design remains the most popular with approx. 14,600 (39.6%) sold, followed by the Purcell Mountains at 12,000 (32.5%) and Porteau Cove at 10,300 (27.9%). This has resulted in approx. $500,000 being raised for the Park Enhancement Fund.
Googly Eyes Add-on!
People crack me up sometimes! Take the trend that started shortly after the release of the plates in early 2017 and involved the affixing of googly eyes to the bear on the Kermode base.
While we are unsure as to how widespread this practice is, it has added some life to the bear, especially, we imagine, when going around corners at high speeds!
At left is a short video put together by the folks at the CBC's Radio-Canada office in Vancouver (hence the French captions) on the day of the plates release!
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Impetus for the BC Parks Plate
In the years leading up to the introduction of the BC Parks plate, reserving a campsite in British Columbia for the popular summer months had become something akin to a 1980s Cabbage Patch Kids frenzied mob attacking a table full of dolls - too many people chasing too few products.
According to the Ministry, the number of reservations handled year-over-year was increasing by double digits with the 2014 numbers representing an increase of13% over 2013, and 2015 numbers increasing by 19% over 2014 (and would subsequently increase by another 16% in 2016).
Somewhat predictably, when the province's online "Discover Camping" reservation system opened on March 14, 2016, it crashed under the pressure of what was reported to be three times the volume of people trying to make reservation as had been experienced in 2015.
As a result, many people were shut-out and unable to book a space in their preferred location for 2016, while an increase in camping fees left those who did secure spots feeling somewhat put-out given no apparent improvement to the amenities being offered at provincial campgrounds.
Public frustration with the system, however, would erupt when media reports began to circulate claiming that travel companies were gaming the reservation system in order to secure large blocs of reservations which they were then making available to out-of-province campers (particularly from Europe and the US) or flipping them on a "black market" at twice their face value or more (i.e. sites that cost between $18 to $35 were being sold for $70)!
The reservation system came under attack as broken as campground staff were increasingly having to confirm people's identities in an attempt to crack down on scalping at the more popular campground locations, while those unable to find a spot were occasionally roughing it nearby on Crown land leading to unknown environmental impacts. The operator of one travel company even received a death threat in addition to numerous calls from other companies hoping to make booking through them.
In early July of 2016, the Environment Minister, Mary Polak, attempted to diffuse some of the tensions by releasing figures showing that BC residents were booking 75% of all sites and that the real issue was one of supply-and-demand and with only 6,000 campsites serving a population of 4,000,000 there were bound to be challenges.
Industry critics countered that despite the clear benefits that tourism to BC (including use of the provincial parks system) brought to the economy, the government was guilty of neglecting the parks system and had failed to adequately fund or plan for the growth in demand that had been building over the previous 30 years.
In response, Minister Polak advised that her Ministry would be reviewing options for adding capacity to the park system as well as reviewing the booking process for improvements.
Fast forward four months to November 28, 2016, and Premier Christy Clark announces a new "BC Parks Future Strategy" which, amongst many other things (such as the creation of 1,900 new campsites), included the creation of a BC Parks specialty license plate!
If you go out in the woods today ...
Premier Christy Clark being stalked by a wild moose as she announces the "BC Parks Future Strategy" on November 28, 2016. The Strategy establishes a new series of BC Parks specialty license plates.
For our purposes here at BCpl8s.ca, the Strategy advised that proceeds from the sale of the plate would be re-invested into provincial parks and that there would be multiple different designs to choose from once the plates were finally released (which occurred in January 2017). As per the Strategy itself:
To read the government's press release on the "BC Parks Future Strategy", just Click Here!
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Other (US) Parks Plates
While uncommon in Canada - we think this might be the first such Parks plate issued by a province - these types of plates are not uncommon in the United States.
South of the border, displaying a Parks plates can usually gain one free entry to a State Park where, unlike in British Columbia where only camping carries a fee, the state government charges for day use as well. The following are a random assortment of these types of plates: