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REPORTING · 6th August 2014
Walter McFarlane
An email to Councillor Mary Murphy from Gary Haupt was brought up at the Committee of the Whole Meeting on Monday, July 28th. The email concerned camping at Hirsch Creek Park.

“I have a contractor at my home that has just taken a camp site down in Hirsch Creek and he was telling me that there 14 day rule is not being enforced and that many of the sites are occupied by people that are not or have not paid. The site he has just taken was emptied by staff for non-payment,” wrote Haupt.

He expressed the staff have to be visible and should attend to what is happening. “The person with 10 tents on one site apparently has not paid either. Park patrol is a tough job and the people doing it have to know that they have the fullest support in case of a need to call for help,” wrote Haupt.

He suggested they call the RCMP to get people out.

Murphy made a motion to receive for information and have a briefing from staff on whether they are enforcing the law or need direction.

Martin Gould, the head of the District of Kitimat Leisure Services Department provided a verbal report to Council, answering their questions.

“Essentially, back in 1990, there was a bylaw that was implemented by Mayor and Council that was passed that said: ‘No person may camp for more than a total of 28 days in one calendar year in one of our municipal parks. No person may camp for more than 14 consecutive days in a municipal park. After the 14 days, that person shall not again camp in the park unless they have left for 24 hours in between visits,’” said Gould.

“Right now, the District of Kitimat is not enforcing this bylaw. The reason for that is, in the past, the parks have not been full for essentially, the full season. Last year, we were full for, I think, four nights in both Radley Park and this year, we’ve allowed camping again in Hirsch Creek Park. We’ve been full for approximately 2-2 1/2 weeks,” said Gould.

He said if the Bylaw was enforced, they would be sending people out of the campground and creating empty sites. If someone came in and took their spot, the campers would end up going to the Riverbank.

There are campers who are delinquent in paying for their sites. Sometimes, when the park attendant comes around, the person may be out enjoying Kitimat’s recreational activities or could be working. Sometimes, they do not connect for a day or two. At this point, a note is left telling them they have not paid. The person comes in and pays or connects with the park attendant.

There have been a few people who come for 24 hours or 48 hours and miss the park attendant and do not pay. These people are billed through their licence plate which is recorded by the camp staff.

“Sometimes we get paid, sometimes, we don’t. It all depends on the honesty of the person at that point,” said Gould.

He said there was one person who was staying in the bush who were asked to leave, which they did. The people who owed money paid up. There was one person who had their belongings removed. The person refused to pay over a two week period. The individual came to Tamitik, collected their belongings and paid. They lost their site.

“Our Park Attendants get our full support, and they do a great job as far as I’m concerned,” said Gould.

Councillor Mario Feldhoff stated it was clear that Kitimat needs more camping spots. He was told they are trying to make contact with the ministry regarding the opportunity and options for expanding the sites at Hirsch Creek. At Radley Park, they plan to punch the new road in this fall. They are looking at the final pricing at the lift station and the new wash hut.

Murphy wanted to know if each tent on a camping pad was charged individually. Gould replied they allow a couple of tents on a site. If there is a mother and father camping with their children, they will not argue. However, if there is a large group living there, they will tell them they are pushing their limit.

“We charge per campsite. We don’t tend to charge per unit on the campsite but if there is more than one individual on the site, we don’t allow that to happen and that’s the general rule,” said Gould.

Murphy also wanted to know about the erosion. Gould told her the riverbank has not eroded for two years. The island in front of Radley is growing and is diverting the water to the other side of the river. They anticipate the river will cut itself off in front of Radley Park but could change course if there are some drastic flows.

“I don’t like having policies and procedures that we don’t enforce,” said Murphy. “I’m a fan of policies and procedures.”

Murphy expressed the contractors who are living in Hirsch Creek and are not paying for sites should be living out at Lake-else Lake and driving back and forth.

“It is our goal to make sure everybody is paid on the site. As I mentioned before, sometimes they beat us by 24 or 48 hours. It’s sometimes difficult to meet everybody at the same time but we do collect our money so that people are not staying at the sites for free and if they do, after three mornings, we will remove them from the site,” said Gould.

Feldhoff makes sure they were collecting on a daily basis. He was told they do, several times a day to catch everyone in the park.

Feldhoff also asked about the 10 tents on once site. Gould told him there were seven tents on two sites when he looked and the staff is going to figure out what is going on.

There were no further question so the motion to receive for information was called and carried.