There were 76 fines issued last summer in relation to illegal camping, according to the District of Squamish.
On April 11, the municipality’s general manager of public safety, Megan Latimer, gave an update to council about camping and visitor management during the 2022 high season.
Of the fines that were issued, Latimer said four were related to unsanctioned camping in public spaces, seven were for camping on District roadways, and 65 fines were issued for parking for over 72 hours in one location.
“All of the District's enforcement actions have endeavoured to achieve voluntary compliance and the issuing of tickets is really a last resort method,” said Latimer.
“It has only been required in the minority of cases.”
She said in 2022, during the peak season, bylaw officers received 74 complaints. About 30% of them were related to wildlife attractions being left out in illegal campsites.
“In addition, community patrol officers were able to identify over 200 incidents of unsanctioned camping throughout the community during proactive patrols in sensitive areas and were able to provide educational information about where it is permitted to camp in Squamish,” Latimer added.
Also included in the discussion were updates about the municipal campground by Brennan Park.
The grounds were used for a short time in 2020 as a low-rent campground in response to the housing problems caused by the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, residents there were evicted once the winter set in, as municipal officials said its facilities were not designed to function during the cold season.
In 2021, the campground was used for special events and recreational programming as needed, and this continued in 2022.
Latimer said for the 2023 season, the municipal campground is booked until July for events.
From July onwards, there are plans to again use the space for recreational programming, including summer camps as well as potentially licensing it for a childcare operator to use for a fixed period, she said.
Latimer said that staff have reviewed the possibility of reopening the grounds to camping.
“The site would need to be upgraded, including the provision of a holding tank for sewage management,” she said. “In addition, staffing would be required to run the campground. Recreation and public works staff positions assigned to the campground in previous years proved not to be adequate to keep up with campground user demands. In order to operate the campground safely, camp host positions are proposed to be contracted to provide support and security 24 hours a day.”
Opening the ground for individual users for the 2023 season would have significant impacts on the budget and staff capacity, among other things.
Council voted 6-0 to open the municipal campground for recreational childcare programming and weekend-only camping use to support events from July until September 2023. Coun. Jenna Stoner did not vote, as she was absent.
“Our municipal campground is an important asset to support our community events, and our data does support that we are at or over capacity in all of our camping facilities in our community during weekends, so I think that this is an important step to ensure that we can support our community events, and the childcare use there is incredibly important for our community as well,” said Mayor Armand Hurford.
Coun. John French mentioned Vancouver’s recent removal of tents on Hastings Street.
“We're seeing a very unfortunate scenario that is challenging for everybody, and part of what we're doing here today is potentially avoiding a situation in Squamish like the one that we're currently seeing on Hastings Street,” French said.
Coun. Chris Pettingill said the municipality needs to be ready to scale its enforcement efforts this year.
He said workers for the upcoming FortisBC and Woodfibre LNG projects may cause an influx of campers.
“We may see impact from Fortis and Woodfibre — quite detrimental impacts to a large portion of our community and economy,” Pettingill said.
Coun. Lauren Greenlaw said she was happy to support a motion that provided access to childcare and camping.