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Tribune Bay campsite on Hornby to expand, include new walk-in sites

Under B.C. Parks’ concept plan, the existing campground would be reduced to 80 sites, while another 40 would be built on newly acquired property

A plan to spread campers at Hornby Island’s popular Tribune Bay Provincial Park over a larger area and add walk-in campsites is expected to start taking shape later this spring.

But the reconfiguration of existing and new campgrounds likely won’t be ready until next year.

Three years after acquiring a campground and a 16-acre parcel of undeveloped forest land and beachfront, the province has completed an ecological assessment and concept plans to make camping a better experience for visitors who flock to Tribune Bay’s warm, shallow waters and sandy beaches.

Grant Scott, Hornby Island trustee for the Islands Trust, said the current eight-acre campground — run by a private operator — has 116 sites where people, tents and trailers are packed in “elbow to elbow.”

He said under the concept plan by B.C. Parks, the existing campground would be reduced to about 80 sites, while another 40 new campsites would be built on the newly acquired property.

Those new sites would be a combination of walk-in campsites catering to hikers, cyclists and kayakers, as well as park-beside tent sites and small overnight shelters called “bunkies.”

“I think they’ve struck a good balance here,” said Scott. “You’re not going to make everyone happy, but it’s a real upgrade and I think most people are going to be happy with what’s going on.”

B.C. Parks said it will post a tender in late May, and campground construction is anticipated to begin this fall. The newly configured camping layout will likely open next summer.

Scott said though the net gain of only four campsites won’t meet the ever-increasing demand for camping on Hornby, it does address the crowding problem and provide new types of campsites with less environmental impact.

The province acquired the two properties on either side of Shields Road for $11.2 million in 2021. The deal adds the campground and forested land and foreshore — representing the last remaining beachfront on Tribune Bay — to the 235-acre provincial park.

B.C. Parks is holding an open house on Wednesday from 6 to 8 p.m. at Hornby Island Community Hall to lay out the project. It’s part of the final phases of engagement with the public that’s been ongoing over the past several months. Consultation with First Nations has also been underway.

B.C. Parks said it has heard so far that many people like to visit and camp at Tribune Bay, but would prefer a less-crowded camping experience and improvements to the facilities.

The public also expressed concern that increasing the number of campsites would put pressure on the ferry system and add to congestion on the island. There are ongoing concerns about water scarcity on the island during the summer months.

Scott said Hornby Island has about 1,200 year-round residents, which swells to more than 6,000 during peak summer months.

“We’re like a lot of places,” said Scott. “There aren’t a lot of places for young people to live and service our businesses and we’re already in a drought.”

B.C. Parks, which completed an ecological assessment of the recently acquired land last month, said the layout of the new campsites is intended to reduce the impact on vegetation, wildlife and wetlands. Nesting trees and culturally important food sources such as camas and Pacific crabapple trees will also be protected.

B.C. Parks said the existing campground will not be fully integrated into the provincial system until consultations and engagements are complete.

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