A Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation guardian took this photo of dozens of vehicles parked along a forest service road in the Kennedy watershed. (Submitted photo)

A Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation guardian took this photo of dozens of vehicles parked along a forest service road in the Kennedy watershed. (Submitted photo)

Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District looks at enforcement of illegal camping

ACRD currently does not have an existing bylaw service to tackle the issue

Some teeth might be coming in the ongoing battle to address illegal camping on Vancouver Island’s west coast.

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) will be meeting later in the year to discuss enforcement for illegal camping in the region.

Illegal camping became a hot topic on the West Coast in 2020, as dozens of vehicles were discovered parked along logging roads in the Kennedy Lake watershed in Tla-o-qui-aht First Nations territory throughout the summer.

READ MORE: Ucluelet RCMP increase patrol at Kennedy watershed

READ MORE: Gates considered at Kennedy watershed

In response to the traffic, Ucluelet RCMP increased their patrols at the Kennedy Lake watershed and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation even considered gating the area.

But although illegal camping has become a challenging issue throughout the region—not just on the West Coast—the ACRD currently does not have an existing bylaw service to tackle the issue.

During a board meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 13, directors discussed the possibility of allocating the region’s new “Safe Restart Grant” towards the enforcement of illegal camping.

Last year the ACRD received $485,000 in COVID-19 Safe Restart Grant funding. This funding was developed by the province so that local governments can address COVID-19 response and recovery costs. Of this $485,000, $27,600 currently remains unallocated. The funding must be allocated by the end of 2021.

Tofino director Tom Stere pointed out that the problem of illegal camping has increased since COVID-19 began.

“It had been identified [at the West Coast Committee meeting] as a major issue that impacted not only [Long Beach] but the adjacent communities in the region,” said Stere. “I suspect those issues may be forthcoming again for this upcoming 2021 season.”

Ucluelet director Rachelle Cole agreed that the region has seen “a seasonal movement” of people from out of the province who ended up camping out in their vehicles while some campsites were closed by COVID-19.

Sproat Lake director Penny Cote noted that the Sproat Lake area has also been dealing with illegal campers, including one campsite near Great Central Lake.

“I agree that the illegal camping is an issue and we need to create a service for the rural areas so that we can address this,” she said. “I do believe that this definitely is related to COVID in many cases. It is a problem and it’s continuing to be a problem.”

CAO Doug Holmes agreed that the problem does not just exist on the remote logging roads of the West Coast, but also on side streets in Tofino and Ucluelet and in areas around Sproat Lake and Bamfield. He suggested setting up a committee of the whole meeting, which could be expanded to include representatives from Parks Canada, local First Nations and forestry companies.

“If it happened during Februrary or early March it would not be too late to affect the financial plan for 2021 if action steps came out of it that the board wished to pursue,” said Holmes.

The ACRD board agreed to hold a committee of the whole meeting no later than early March in order to discuss what steps might be taken.

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elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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