Communities on the west coast of Vancouver Island are bracing for what could be another summer wave of illegal camping.
The summer of 2020 saw hundreds of people arriving from across the country in places like Ucluelet, Tofino and Port Alberni with no place to stay and no plan for even the basic amenities. This created a series of health and environmental concerns for many local officials.
A handful of logging roads in the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District, such as West Main road near Kennedy Lake, looked more like homeless camps — many with CERB payments in their pocket but no other plan.
“There were definitely different samples of travellers and last summer the largest portion of those travellers who came here were those who intended to camp wherever they parked,” said Rachelle Cole, a Ucluelet Councillor and BC Paramedic.
Cole says the issues are not restricted to remote logging roads either.
“The other side of it is to look at the communities themselves and the camping that was actually happening on our side streets right out front of my house, down the street and people washing their dishes on the street and using facilities where there are no facilities and finding toilet paper on your front lawn,” added Cole.
“Another concern is in places like Kennedy Lake where there are day-use sites but there are no overnight sites and that is being completely ignored,” said Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District Chair John Jack.
Jack says tickets are issued, but in many cases, that doesn’t matter because they are ignored.
Information about places to camp for free has spread like wildfire on social media, leading local stakeholders — including elected officials, RCMP, BC Parks, First Nations and others — to work at finding solutions.
“I think there are decisions we can make at all levels of government that will help address this issue in a way that will dissuade illegal camping and allow for us to find alternatives for people who wish to stay here and enjoy the weather and the location,” added Jack.