July 22, 2016 - 1:00 PM
KEREMEOS - The Village of Keremeos is asking the province for an amendment to the Forest and Range Practises Act in order to resolve a long standing issue in the Similkameen Valley.
Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer says his community would like to see a change in the act, which currently allows camping on Crown land for up to 14 days. The amendment would prohibit camping within active riverbeds throughout the province.
The village has been trying to discourage transient people and seasonal farm workers from using a flood plain of the Similkameen River just east of the village limits as a campground for years, but the law allowing camping on Crown land for up to two weeks has made it almost impossible for authorities to control or regulate the area in question.
“We want an amendment that prohibits camping, period, on inactive river beds," he says.
Bauer says the main issue is the environment.
"We’ve been dealing with this for at least 30 years now. We’ve had multiple attempts addressing the issue, multiple meetings with various authorities, with no solution,” he says.
Various things have been attempted, including the creation of a rough, but sanctioned camping area on the floodplain in 2011 operated by volunteers who attempted to control garbage and human waste by setting up garbage bins and a portable toilet on the site, charging campers a nominal fee of one dollar. The effort lasted one season.
This year, Bauer says conservation officers have been monitoring the area, but staff resources are limited.
“They’ve written a number of tickets, mainly over discarding of garbage, but it is very difficult to document infractions. Hhow do you attach a name to random garbage and human feces?” he says. Tracking people who are camping longer than two weeks is also difficult to monitor.
“At the end of the year we still have to go in there and take out, not just a little bit, but truckloads of garbage,” he says.
He says campers last year erected a huge stage from pilfered lumber, wood pallets and other materials that had to be hauled away.
Bauer notes the problem is not unique to Keremeos. He says scores of campers visit B.C. riverbeds annually and many do not leave the environment as they found it.
The mayor says he will be speaking to the Minister of Natural Resource Operations Steve Thomson at the Union of BC Municipalities convention in September, adding the local MLAs support the resolution.
The Okanagan Similkameen Regional District board unanimously endorsed the village’s resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities for the amendment to the Forest and Range Practises Act.
Bauer says the Okanagan Basin Water Board also offered their support in a letter indicating they favoured a restriction on camping within river channels.
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