Some visitors to Squamish on the August long weekend found themselves with nowhere to stay.
As of Friday (Aug. 3), all the community’s campsites and hotel rooms were booked, said Karen Unger, an employee at Squamish’s visitor information centre. Accommodation in Whistler was also sold out.
“People are coming looking for spaces,” she said.
Summer weekends are usually busy, Unger said, but the B.C. day long weekend proved exceptional. The Squamish Days Loggers Sports was underway, the Pacific Pilsner 2012 West Coast Open Kiteboarding Championships hit the Squamish Spit, the Bass Coast music festival pumped in Squamish Valley, while mountain bikers hit Valleycliffe in the Hot on Your Heels race and the community hosted a fastpitch ball tournament.
While tourism should be encouraged, it has to be properly managed, local environmentalist John Buchanan said, noting that camping in non-designated areas was rampant during the past weekend.
“I was shocked at the number of illegal campsites,” he said.
The three main areas for the activity where the Mamquam River, Stawamus River and the Squamish Estuary, Buchanan noted. Ignoring the growing problem hurts the District of Squamish both environmentally and economically as officials could be forced to deal with potential forest fires and wildlife conflicts. Although most of the areas are signposted for “no camping,” the district needs to get some teeth behind the bylaws, he noted.
“We don’t have any enforcement going on,” Buchanan said. “This is a problem that has been spanning quite a few years.”
There has been ongoing chatter surrounding the district-owned campsites at Brennan Park, Coun. Bryan Raiser said. The municipality hasn’t examined expanding the site, although it might be taken into consideration in the Parks and Recreation Master Plan, he noted.
More campsites are needed, Raiser said. However, the question is where to place them. Land at Brennan Park is limited, he added.
Depending on the property, illegal camping enforcement falls into different jurisdictions, Raiser said. The district does have bylaw officers; however, their workload is complaint driven.
“I would prefer more education than enforcement,” Raiser said.
If campers are considerate and respectful of their environment, there should be no trace of them when they leave, he said.