District of Squamish proposes two new campsites

Council considers sending campers to Cat Lake and Mamquam River Forest Service Road

To cut down on illegal camping inside municipal boundaries, the District of Squamish is hoping to direct campers to the Foundations site at Cat Lake and the Pit on the Mamquam River Forest Service Road.

People can still camp at existing designated spots, as well as on Crown land outside the town’s municipal boundaries.

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By creating these new designated camping spots, the District hopes to eliminate camping in areas such as downtown, the Squamish Estuary, the Spit, and Brennan Park and Adventure Centre parking lots.

This was perhaps the biggest highlight of the new proposed camping bylaw that was discussed at council’s Committee of the Whole meeting on April 9.

No readings were passed on the matter, meaning this proposal is still subject to change.

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A map of the proposed new camping locations. The new locations are shaded in orange stripes. - District of Squamish

Councillors pointed out that there were potential challenges.

One of the first concerns was conflict between different user groups.

Coun. Armand Hurford noted that the Foundations site by Cat Lake was already used by dirt bikers.

“I’m really worried about user conflicts,” Hurford said.

He also said that while the Cat Lake site was presented as the easier of the two new sites to access, he had trouble bringing his vehicle there. Highway access is also tricky because it’s often crowded, he said.

Natasha Golbeck, senior director of community services, said that the municipality will monitor the situation to see how user groups interact.

She also noted the District was short on other places to send campers so as to avoid damage to the environment and disturbances to wildlife.

“There were not very many spaces that were appropriate for this kind of use,” Golbeck said.

“Nothing is perfect. This is something to try.”

Also, both this and the Mamquam River Forest Service Road location were chosen in part because they were far away from crowded neighbourhoods, where campers and locals often clash.

These locations are also both relatively flat and could accommodate a number of vehicles, she said.

The Cat Lake site can accommodate about 20 to 30 vehicles, a staff report says. The Mamquam site can take between 30 to 40.

Coun. John French noted that the proposed areas lacked facilities, such as toilets.

Golbeck said, however, that there are facilities in nearby areas.

Adding Porta Potties is a possibility, she said, but servicing them will be a challenge.

Other councillors also expressed similar concerns about lack of facilities, but ultimately Mayor Karen Elliott suggested that they wait and see how many people use the campsites before investing in facilities.

“If people aren’t going to go up there, then I don’t want to put any money into it,” Elliott said.

Representatives from the RCMP, provincial conservation and natural resources, the Ministry of Forests, the Squamish Windsports Society and the Squamish Access Society were all present at the meeting and had been consulted during the making of this proposal.

 

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