Camping bylaw needed

It’s likely a surprise to most people that at present, North Cowichan does not have regulations about camping in its parks.

It was a surprise to us.

It’s definitely something North Cowichan needs to address. It may not have a huge impact on some of the parks in the more rural areas of the municipality, but we often tend to forget that there are swaths of urban area in North Cowichan as well (what with Duncan’s quirky one square mile boundary, a significant portion of what most people think of as Duncan actually falls within North Cowichan’s boundaries — and their rules).

Unwanted camping in public parks hasn’t traditionally been a problem.

But the rise of the tent city in Duncan was an object lesson. The city was able to deal with the squatters, which is what they became, because they had regulations in place limiting the hours people are allowed to set up tents and stay in their public parks. Like many other jurisdictions, the rules limited campers to an overnight stay — not allowing a semi-permanent residence.

But North Cowichan has no such protections in place.

The homeless camp that set up in Duncan demonstrated why having such a thing is not desirable. It left behind a terrible mess to clean up, which included dirty needles and the like. Many visitors and residents of Duncan felt intimidated by the group and began to steer clear of the public park the tent city inhabited.

This is not a witch hunt against the homeless. We imagine North Cowichan will want to bring in rules similar to those in Duncan, which allow those who don’t have a roof over their heads to camp overnight. What they can’t do is take over an area and essentially drive everyone else away, or interfere with people’s enjoyment of their nearby properties by setting up shop on someone’s fenceline.

It’s about the right of everyone to enjoy and feel safe on public land.

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