Volunteers removed a pile of material from an abandoned homeless camp adjacent to Piercy Creek earlier this year.

Garbage, needles harming riparian zone

City, volunteers try to manage garbage near Piercy Creek

Members of the Millard-Piercy Watershed Stewards request continued support from the City of Courtenay and the RCMP to stop homeless camps from setting up in the riparian zone on private lands along Piercy Creek.

Though mindful of difficult situations of many homeless individuals, the group feels compelled to stop people from trespassing due to large amounts of garbage, and the large number of needles discarded on properties.

The group asked the City to install fencing and a greater number of Private Property/No Trespassing signs.

“Installing fences and signs typically does not work,” Trevor Kushner, director of public works services, said Tuesday at Courtenay council. “Vandalism occurs rapidly on those assets. We could easily erect a fence tomorrow, and by the weekend it will be cut open again.”

He notes City staff and volunteers have cleaned up garbage several times this year in the Millard Park area.

Coun. Doug Hillian met recently with agencies working in the area, along with police and bylaw staff.

“We shouldn’t under-estimate the problems that this situation represents,” Hillian said. “The reality is that there simply are not places to live for many of the people who are choosing to camp in the woods. The agencies, police and bylaw officers are challenged to continue to manage this problem, given the acute housing shortage in the community, particularly housing that would accommodate some of the individuals who aren’t prepared to stay in the shelter that has bed space available…This, unfortunately, will continue to be a management problem that the City will have to deal with.”

Later in the meeting, council approved the following resolution from Mayor Bob Wells: the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) lobby the federal government to create a national strategy that aims to eliminate the need for tent cities, and, in the meantime, to support communities with the management of tent cities.

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