Plugging up free camp sites with long-term trailer parking means less access to the parks for everyone else. (Northern Vancouver Island Tourism/Steven Fines)

Plugging up free camp sites with long-term trailer parking means less access to the parks for everyone else. (Northern Vancouver Island Tourism/Steven Fines)

North Island recreation sites are not your summer home, officer says

Long-term trailer parking ruins viability of free recreation camp sites in the north Island

The appeal of recreation sites in B.C. is obvious. They’re beautiful, they’re remote, luxury campers (or “glampers”) don’t tend to visit, and the sites are free. Recreation Sites and Trails BC wants these things (perhaps without the feelings about glampers) to remain strong attractions.

Recreation Officer Graham Cameron is passionately committed to keeping sites free and well-maintained, but his efforts are under threat.

His scourge are people who park a fifth-wheel and leave it for weeks — or even months.

“People will go out on Tuesday before a long weekend and leave their trailer there. Then others come to camp during the week and find every site full, but no one’s around.”

Sometimes it’s for a long weekend, but often people set up camp for the whole summer. They’ll work during the week and come out to the lake for weekends.

“That happens extensively in the north Island. They’ll use it as a summer home. It’s one of my greatest frustrations,” Cameron said.

A number of sites around Campbell River were changed to fee-for-service sites, something Cameron felt compelled to do because of how many people took advantage of the unmonitored sites.

Nimpkish Lake is notoriously abused, he said. The lake is popular for windsurfing and kiteboarding, so in addition to the families who park a trailer, it’s also tour guide operators who set up camp for the season.

Cameron’s office does not have the resources to police this behaviour — there are just two Recreation B.C. staff who run the entire north Island — roughly six million hectares and some 400 campsites. Instead, Recreation B.C. relies on the public to self-monitor and help maintain the sites.

The RAPP Line — 1-877-952-7277 — is open for reports of this kind. Hearing reports of abuse helps Cameron’s team keep track of what goes on.

“What I want more than anything is for these sites to remain free, and for people to be able to enjoy them.”

RELATED: North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

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