Okanagan mayors lament weekend spike in visitors | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Okanagan mayors lament weekend spike in visitors

Todds RV & Camping in Peachland, like many private campgrounds, is not taking in recreational campers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that failed stop an influx of tourists coming to the Okanagan over the weekend. B.C. parks and forestry recreational sites are also closed.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED /Todds RV & Camping Facebook page
April 13, 2020 - 7:00 PM

An influx of visitors was noticeable in several Okanagan and Similkameen tourist towns over the Easter long weekend, and it has local mayors wondering why people aren’t staying home.

Princeton Mayor Spencer Coyne says the community was bustling as campers and RVs  made their way through the town between Thursday and Saturday last week.

This in spite of COVID-19 restrictions that closed public campgrounds, forestry sites and advice from provincial health officials to stay at home over the holiday weekend.

“I personally witnessed people camping behind a barrier that had been removed from a forest recreation area,” Coyne said in an email today, April 13.

He says there were local private campsites in the Princeton area which opened and allowed people to stay on the weekend.

“I saw a steady stream of campers and RVs head down Highway 3, Old Hedley Road, the Princeton- Summerland Road and Coalmont Road. I’m not sure where they went, but they all came to our area,” he said.

“Some merchants said it was as busy as a regular summer long weekend,” he said.

Coyne says based on the direction of traffic, it appeared most visitors were from the Lower Mainland.

“It was more travellers than I expected. It’s not responsible to go to another community at this time. I wanted to go and visit my brother in the Okanagan, but I didn’t,” he said.

“I understand they are wanting to leave the city and come to somewhere less populated but they need to understand the stress they have put on residents here. I was receiving calls until nearly midnight on Friday with citizens scared about the influx of people into the area,” the mayor said.

Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff said she drove around town a few times over the last three or four days and didn’t see any busy hotels or motels.

“There were some cars in the parking lots. I don’t know why they were there, it could have been for legitimate reasons. There are still snowbirds in town, people from across Canada, but there seemed to be quite a few people from other places in B.C. this weekend,” she said.

McKotoff said the town’s condominium developments were busier than normal.

“I’m thinking people who own those condos were some of whom came up for the weekend. The town looked busier than it usually does,” she said.

She said she was told by a local motel manager that his business had a few snowbirds staying, but no new bookings.

McKortoff said she spoke to a mobile park resident who said many out of town residents who owned RVs in his park didn’t come up this weekend.

She said she didn’t see a lot of out of province plates in Osoyoos.

“There were extra people in town this weekend, but more than tourists, I think many own property here,” she said.

The mayor said that was no excuse for coming.

“They should have understood the restrictions in travel as well. We’re following the same rules as everyone else. I don’t think it was a smart move on their part to come up, but we don’t have a law that stops them from coming,” she said.

In Salmon Arm, Mayor Alan Harrison was pleasantly surprised by an Easter long weekend that saw only a marginal increase in out of town visitors to his community.

“It appears they observed the requests made by us and the province to stay home. There was a slight bump, for sure, but nowhere near what would normally be the case over an Easter weekend,” Harrison said.

Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin said in a social media post today that she had several people express their frustration at seeing visitors, including vehicles bearing Alberta license plates,  in and around Peachland.

“I should start by mentioning that not everyone with an Alberta license plate is visiting, as there are a number of residents who moved here from Alberta and maintain their Alberta insurance,” she stated in the post.

She urged visitors and residents alike to limit non-essential travel at this time.

Graham Todd, co-owner of Todd’s RV & Camping in Peachland said he’s had to turn requests for recreational campsites down this weekend.

“We’ve had lots of requests, but we are opting not to have recreational campers at this time because of COVID, so we’re turning them away, and telling them to stay home. We do have snowbirds that are returning. They come in and quarantine at their site. We’ve had 11 or 12 of them and they’ve been fantastic. They live in their rigs, that’s their house, so that’s worked out fine, but so far as to come for a day or two, recreationally, it’s just not practical, Todd said.

"I hate turning down the business, we’ve had multiple requests, and they are upset we wouldn’t let them come,” he said.

Todd said the campground is operating under guidelines set out the B.C. Campground Association.

"This is our 64th summer of operation. We’ve lived through the fires and floods and this is just something else. We don’t know where the whole year is going to take us,” he said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to tips@infonews.ca and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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