Photos of 707 Community Park on Gabriola Island, taken from the Regional District of Nanaimo’s 707 Community Park Management Plan 2010-2020. (RDN images)

Regional District of Nanaimo to consider homeless camping moratorium for Gabriola park

Gabriola Island’s RDN director seeks fire risk assessment for 707 Community Park

Regional District of Nanaimo’s board will consider an overnight homeless camping moratorium for a Gabriola Island community park this week.

RDN previously approved a bylaw permitting homeless people to camp at select parks between 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. with regulations, such as ones for distancing.

Vanessa Craig, RDN board vice-chairperson and Gabriola Island director, said while that legislation is in line with B.C. Supreme Court rulings, she will introduce a motion at a Tuesday, April 28 meeting seeking to temporarily halt the practice at 707 Community Park, while its status is assessed and recommendations are made on addressing fire risk.

The park is bigger than Vancouver’s Stanley Park, Craig told the News Bulletin. It was previously harvested, with minimal tree-growing and cultivating management taking place since becoming a park in 2005.

There are areas of dense, dry, dead trees and big slash piles, Craig said.

“The forest has been growing up around that and it’s a concern when you have a very large park … the ability to attack a forest fire can be limited in some areas of the park,” she said. “The fire chief has been working over the years. He gets [B.C. Wildfire Service] in there and they do work and they’re clearing trails and they’re clearing brush and developing access points.”

Craig said the park has areas which can’t be accessed with emergency vehicles yet and it has a cellular phone coverage dead zone.

“Being able to co-ordinate an emergency response is hampered in some of the area,” said Craig. “If a fire happened at night, or in windy conditions, we wouldn’t get immediate assistance from B.C. Wildfire Service and there are residential areas around the perimeter of the park.”

Will Sprogis, Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department chief, will make a presentation on the subject to the board this week, said Craig. He could not be reached for comment.

The meeting takes place Tuesday, April 28.

RELATED: Bylaw allows homeless to camp overnight at select RDN parks

RELATED: RDN begins enforcing overnight camping bylaw

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