New rules for overnight camping in Regional District of Nanaimo parks

New rules for overnight camping in Regional District of Nanaimo parks
Watch Overnight camping is now allowed in some RDN parks but not most.

In spite of a petition looking to block the move, overnight camping is now allowed in some parks between Cedar and Deep Bay.

Colleen Alderliesten, who started the petition, loves spending time at her favourite park in Nanoose Bay.

As it’s near her home, she does not want homeless people camping in it overnight.

“I don’t want it in my backyard. Nobody wants it in their backyard cause we’ve seen what it looks like after a couple of weeks,” said Alderliesten.

She started the online petition two weeks ago opposing the Regional District of Nanaimo’s (RDN’s) plan to allow overnight camping in some parks.

Close to 4,000 people have signed but she says her primary concern is that people are being forced to sleep in parks at all.

“It’s not a solution for the homeless and that’s the main point,” said Alderliesten.

“They need help right. They need to be homed somewhere. They need mental health care.”

But the RDN’s chair says they’re not trying to promote camping in its parks but they’re addressing a BC Supreme Court ruling allowing people with no other option to camp in them overnight.

“If the court is ruling that homeless people have the right to camp in open spaces fair enough, but let’s put some restrictions and guidelines in place to limit their possible harmful effects on the parks,” said Ian Thorpe.

On Tuesday night, the RDN board passed the new bylaw unanimously but in more than half of the region’s 150 parks, overnight camping is still banned.

“We have identified 77 per cent of those parks are not suitable at all for homeless camping and there’s a variety of reasons for that,” said Thorpe.

“Possibly because they are natural areas, conservation areas, riparian protected areas or they are simply too small and close to neighbouring subdivisions.”

And Alderstein’s favourite park is among those where camping is banned.

Still, she questions whether the RDN has enough bylaw officers to enforce the new rules.

“Are they going to drag them out of the park? Is it going to be a great big showdown? I mean it’s not feasible. It’s not going to happen.”

The RDN says time will tell but it says overnight camping in their parks is currently not a big problem.

Kendall HansonKendall Hanson

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