Tofino’s flow of summer visitors is running full-tilt, and some locals are questioning district staff, Mayor Josie Osborne and town council for not adequately enforcing municipal bylaws.
Some travellers to Canada’s surf capital are leaving a trail of garbage in their wake, camping illegally in district parks or residential streets, and causing all sorts of traffic congestion issues.
Tofino resident Tammy Shymko submitted a petition on Aug. 18, calling on District of Tofino staff and council to enforce municipal bylaws. More than 230 people had signed the petition at press time.
Shymko believes the lack of bylaw enforcement is impacting the well-being of her community.
“Relying on the common sense of the visitor is clearly not working and has not worked in the past, this is an issue that has been ongoing for over a decade with no leadership being taken or changes being implemented,” said Shymko in an email to the Westerly.
Shymko wants to see bylaw officers on duty when the majority of the infractions are taking place.
“Bylaw hours should reflect the influx of visitors weekends and holidays. Thursday to Monday 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. at the very least,” she said.
Tofino chief administration officer Bob MacPherson declined to answer the hours of work for a Tofino bylaw officer. He did note, however, that both bylaw and public works staff are working overtime trying to keep up with the problems.
“From the beginning of Phase 3 in June to Aug. 13, our officers issued 298 tickets. Most were various parking violations, and 63 were camping infractions tickets that carry a $200 fine. When we started to realize the extent of visitation and the problems began to escalate in July, we also moved to tougher enforcement strategies. In mid-July, we stopped giving warnings and increased ticketing,” said MacPherson.
Poole’s Land, the eco-village on Mackenzie Beach Road that used to accommodate up to 80 tenters and van life tourists, permanently closed this summer. Then a bylaw officer quit in July creating a perfect storm of illegal campers overrunning the small coastal haven of about 2,434 residents. What’s more, MacPherson said they are still only operating with two bylaw officers when usually they’d have four in place over summer.
“The District planned our summer resource levels for this year in late March and early April. At that time, we were hearing that visitation levels would be very low, that people’s incomes would be very negatively affected by Covid-19 and that our residents wanted property taxes to be minimized,” he said.
“In responding to this, we chose to reduce our enforcement and other resources for the season, which included not engaging an RCMP Reservist to help with higher-risk enforcement priorities such as beach fires.“
A surfer changes on the side of the Pacific Rim Highway near the Cox Bay Beach entrance. (Nora O’Malley photo)
“Dangerous and illegal parking around beach access points, residential roads around beach locations, the downtown of Tofino, and along Highway 4 by Cox Bay Beach Resort” is contributing to public safety concerns, notes the Tofino Bylaw petition.
In 2018, the District of Tofino expanded parking capacity at the end of Maltby Road, creating approximately 28 new public parking spaces. MacPherson said the district is not permitted to intervene or take on liability in the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure right of way.
“We are in constant communication with the Ministry about parking and safety issues along the highway at this and other locations. Thankfully, as of [Aug.18], I can report that the Ministry has installed no-parking signage along the southbound right-hand turn lane, and the District is looking at parking design solutions at Maltby to address the safe access to Cox Bay,” he said.
Many of Tofino’s problems are not new, notes MacPherson, but have been amplified this summer with Covid-19.
“It’s clear that managing growth is something that the community is asking for, and something that deserves more consideration in the coming months. We’ll be working with council, our partners, and the community to consider solutions to both the shorter-term issues linked to the global pandemic, as well as longer-term strategies to manage the impacts of visitation,” said MacPherson.
Tofino’s tourism machine generates $240 million annually and boosts municipal, provincial and federal tax revenues by $57 million, according to a 2018 economic impact survey conducted by Tourism Tofino.
Travel to the region also supports 2,670 direct jobs—1,720 full-time equivalent jobs—generating $60 million in annual wages.
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