Editorial: Battling trash in the bush has gotten harder in Cowichan

Abandoned homeless camps appearing off trails

Homeless camps are adding a whole new dimension to the problem of illegal dumping in the Cowichan Valley.

Illegal dumping of trash in the bush has long been a thorn in the side of local governments and residents. There seems to be a group of skinflints who feel they should be able to dump their garbage wherever they want, without consequence, rather than pay the usually relatively small fee at one of the Valley’s transfer stations to have it properly disposed of.

The crazy thing is that by the time they gas up their truck or other large vehicle, drive it out to a remote location and offload their debris they probably haven’t saved a penny. And they’ve created an environmental hazard and an eyesore to plague the whole community. It’s an all-around crummy thing to do.

But another problem has been growing in the last three to four years, according to residents who like to walk some of the well-used trails around Duncan. Homeless people are setting up temporary camps in various locations off the trails, then just abandoning them for whatever reason, leaving behind garbage, feces, drug paraphernalia, tents, tarps and other detritus.

These are just as much a blight on our unparalleled wilderness as the abandoned construction debris and household goods left behind by conventional longtime dumpers.

We don’t think anyone begrudges someone who doesn’t have somewhere warm and dry to sleep setting up a campsite in the woods off a trail to try to create some meagre shelter and sense of home. This does also tend to demonstrate some of the reasons why some of these folks are so hard to house. Abandoned campsites can be a symptom of the same challenges and limitations that have led to their homelessness in the first place.

But it’s infuriating when the camper then leaves behind a pile of garbage that becomes a public problem. Being homeless does not absolve people of having a responsibility to the wider community.

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