Lake Cowichan Mayor Rod Peters said the message is “Stay safe, stay home,” but at least one CVRD official is hoping people will get out and enjoy the region.
Questions about policing the Cowichan River and just who would stop would-be tubers wanting to go for a drift this summer were raised after Peters said he and his council reluctantly opted to shut down tubing unless the COVID-19 situation changed.
“Tubing ends just maybe 300 feet from our town boundaries. All of the river, the whole river is controlled by FLNRO — the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resourse Operations. We can only stop the people before they get into the river,” said the mayor. “We are going to have the parks blocked off. Once they get in the river, they’re out of our jurisdiction. FLNRO is the one that looks after it through Vancouver Island emergency program.
“The electoral areas are all FLNRO. FLNRO can control the river. If they launch their tubes from their property — because we’ll be stopping them if they try to do it from public lands — then FLNRO will get them and give them a warning or whatever, and if they get belligerent they’ll get a fine.”
Peters said that Lake Cowichan officials have been in contact with and have created a plan with the ministry. Whether or not it’ll work remains to be seen.
“Being on the river is not a big deal. If a few get through, I don’t really care,” Peters said.
What he’s worried about, though, are the crowds that typically gather outside the Tube Shack in the Jake’s on the Lake parking lot at Saywell Park.
“The Tube Shack is the only one that’s going to be open. Orca is not opening. They’re in total support of what we’re doing. But there’s a small area where The Tube Shack is, that’s what we’re worried about: having like 400 people in our little town all in the same area, jamming up all the parking and not showing social distancing with the members of our community. On any given day there’s 400-500 people down in that area and it’s a very small area. That’s what we want to stop.”
“We can let them go into the river but the thing is, the way they’re going to get there is not lawful because the Vancouver Island Emergency program says you can’t have 50 people in a group. That’s why we’re closing the river and why we’re advertising it now, just to tell people ‘we don’t want you in our town.’”
Peters said the ban isn’t picking on tubers.
“If a group of people wanted to have a bicycle rally and they want to collect down at the park there where the tubes go in, we would say ‘no’. It’s the number of people gathering on the Town property in a confined area.”
CVRD vice-chair Ian Morrison, the director for Area F (Cowichan Lake South/Skutz Falls), said there hasn’t been any targeted discussions around the CVRD table about tubing or otherwise using the Cowichan River for recreation and, in fact, it’s his hope that people will get out and enjoy the splendour of the Cowichan Valley, be it on the water, the trails or otherwise.
The main haul-out point for people is his area — Electoral Area F, he noted.
“I don’t think the CVRD has any intention of any sort of comment on people recreating outdoors,” Morrison said. “Our playground facilities are closed, there’s some soft openings planned for some of our outdoor recreation facilities and we want people to be out there and healthy and happy but we also want them to be very respectful of the river itself — it’s a heritage river…and we want to ensure that people are safe and following our medical health officer and federal government guidelines. We want people to follow the rules and to be safe, but to enjoy the spectacular environment that we have out here.”