Illegal campers leave mess of problems

RMOW aware of issue, ticketing when it can

Whistler's reputation as an expensive resort can lead to some visitors searching to cut costs in any way possible. For some, that has resulted in camping illegally within municipal boundaries.

It's an issue Whistlerites have taken to Facebook to complain about following the recent discovery of human feces near Fitzsimmons Creek, with some locals saying it's one of the reasons why illegal camping needs to be addressed.

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"Periodically it's raised its head," said Whistler Mayor Nancy Wilhelm-Morden of the issue. "It's one of the reasons that the Riverside campground was rezoned from what it used to be to camping, so that people would have an organized place to camp within the municipal boundaries."

But that hasn't stopped people from setting up camp elsewhere in Whistler.

"You a can usually see campers in around Mons just on the other side of the dyke, near the golfing bit," said longtime local David Buzzard. "It's been a squat as long as I can remember and while nobody's in tents down there, there are always campers down there."

The issue of illegal camping in Whistler is a subject Buzzard is somewhat close to, as his family used to own and operate a campground at what's now the Spruce Grove neighbourhood. Now the only campground in the area is the Riverside RV Resort and Campground.

"It's happening elsewhere," he said. "Go down to the skier Day Lots, go find a dark corner there and see if anyone is camping."

While illegal camping might not register high on the list of things to address at municipal hall, it is something that bylaw officers are aware of and are taking action towards, said Wilhelm-Morden.

"We spoke with bylaw to see how much of an issue it was or has been and apparently in 2011 bylaw enforcement issued 40 parking tickets for people who were camped illegally in RVs," she explained.

As for those pitching tents where they weren't supposed to be, the mayor said there were five files of people illegally camping in 2010 and 11 files in 2011.

"So far there are no files for 2012," she added. "Usually what happens if there's an illegal camping complaint bylaw goes and asks the people to pack up and move to a campground where there are proper facilities."

When asked about what kinds of problems illegal campers present for the municipality, Wilhelm-Morden said the most common is the fallout associated with camping in an area that doesn't have trashcans or bathrooms set up nearby.

"There's the mess, not having proper facilities for pooing and they can also be attractants for bears as well," she said.

As for the notion that campers might be illegally staying in Whistler as a result of expensive legitimate accommodations, Buzzard said he thinks people aren't willing to pay the current prices to stay at a place like Riverside if they think they can get away with staying for free somewhere nearby.

The cost for tent camping at Riverside is currently $25 per night, while the cost of setting up a camper is $55 per night with additional adults costing $5 each after the first two.

In the end, while illegal campers may leave mess here and there, it isn't something the RMOW currently sees as that big an issue.

"I think in the grand scheme of things it's not a pressing concern, but bylaw does act when they do receive complaints," said Wilhelm-Morden. "When you look at the number of visitors that do come to Whistler, the number of people that do illegally camp is really quite minor."

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