The spotlight on the West Coast’s backroads has grown stronger through unity as local leaders issued a joint-statement condemning illegal camping and urging anyone considering a trip to the Tofino-Ucluelet region to secure authorized accommodations before they arrive.
“Unauthorized camping results in siloed gates, pushing campers throughout alternate areas within territorial lands and into the communities, which creates a larger issue,” Ucluelet First Nation president Charles McCarthy said through the statement. “Backroad ‘living’ puts stress on the environment and local community members. We strongly encourage visitors to come prepared with accommodation when travelling to the West Coast.”
Destructive and irresponsible campers have long been a bane to the West Coast’s backroads and particularly high traffic in the area this summer led Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member Timmy Masso to set up a blockade at West Main Forest Service Road on Aug. 10 that resulted in a meeting being called for all local leaders to work on solutions to the problem together.
The joint-statement was released on Aug. 26 and signed by the Ucluelet First Nation, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, Toquaht First Nation, the districts of Tofino and Ucluelet, the Alberni Clayoquot Regional District and Parks Canada.
“I am privileged to live here, and I hope those visiting show respect to the region in all their actions. We are expecting you to,” said Ucluelet mayor Mayco Noel through the statement.
“The District of Tofino looks forward to helping find a solution to unauthorized and irresponsible backcountry behaviour,” added Tofino mayor Dan Law.
The statement notes there is “zero tolerance for unauthorized camping and unauthorized overnight parking” in the areas around the Kennedy Lake Watershed, and within the traditional territories of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, Ucluelet First Nation and Toquaht First Nation.
“The West Coast is experiencing a highly active summer, to help maintain safety and reduce overcrowding, having reservations before arriving to the area is necessary,” it reads. “Territorial lands are highly sensitive and have been suffering the impact of un-authorized campers…Regional and National travelers are asked to consider the environmental and public safety aspects of the area and check ahead to confirm reservations and avoid camping in unauthorized areas.”
The statement suggests unauthorized camping “degrades environmental sustainability and public safety” potentially leading to wildfire risk, threats to wildlife, environmental concerns and safety concerns leading to increased stress on local emergency first responders.
“We have limited emergency resources on the West Coast. Unauthorized camping ties up these resources unnecessarily,” said Ucluelet fire chief Rick Geddes.
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve superintendent Karen Haugen encouraged anyone struggling to secure reservations on the currently tourist-packed Coast to consider visiting the area during the less busy fall or winter months.
“Parks Canada works closely with local First Nations, the Districts of Tofino and Ucluelet, as well as local tourism organizations to ensure a memorable, safe, and respectful visit. Guardians, Junior Guardians, BeachKeepers, Coastal Stewards and Parks Canada staff work together to encourage and promote respectful visitor behaviour,” she said.