Regional District of Nanaimo officials have discussed measures to keep campers from building ‘tent cities’ in regional and community parks.
At the RDN’s regional parks and trails select committee meeting on Nov. 5, staff proposed a new bylaw that will allow people to only pitch tents in district parks overnight, from 7 p.m. to 9 a.m.
It would be limited to areas within parks to ensure designated conservation areas, facilities, trails, parking areas, playgrounds and neighbouring residential properties will not be impacted.
However, a number of parks in RDN rural areas would be considered off-limits to homeless people for camping. In Electoral Area A (South Wellington and Cedar area) that would apply to Cedar Plaza and skate park and Thelma Griffith Park. While in the Extension-Pleasant Valley area (Electoral Area C), Meadow Creek and Extension Miners community parks would be off-limits. On Gabriola Island, camping would be prohibited at Huxley and Rollo McClay community parks and Malaspina Galleries.
In District 69, parks considered off-limits include Es-hw Sments Park and Beachcomber Park in Electoral Area E (Nanoose Bay); Columbia Drive Park, Neden Way Park and Little Qualicum Estuary in Electoral Area G (French Creek, San Pareil, Little Qualicum, Englishman River); and Henry Morgan Park in Electoral Area H (Bowser, Qualicum Bay, Deep Bay).
As well, the proposed bylaw also deal with a total smoking/vaping ban, cannabis consumption, off-road vehicle use, electric bicycle use, and aligns RDN fees for camping and special-use events with rates comparable to those in other B.C. parks. An extra bylaw enforcement officer would be hired at a cost of approximately $44,000 a year.
In drafting the recommendation, staff investigated other jurisdictions’ park-use regulation bylaws to ensure that it meets best practices, aligns with federal and provincial laws, and that it is relevant to the needs of residents and guests of the RDN.
Several municipalities and regional districts in recent years updated bylaws to deal with homeless camping in parks. They include Nanaimo and the District of North Cowichan.
A motion was made to refer the proposed bylaw back to staff for further review and to work closely with each electoral area directors on the proposed list of prohibited parks. A report will be presented to the committee again on Feb. 4.
If adopted, the new bylaw will be applied to all regional and community parks and trails in the RDN.