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News for December 5, 2021

Concerns Rise Over Camping On British Columbia Kennedy Lake Road

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For years, various campers and seasonal workers from Tofino have found refuge along the Kennedy Lake logging roads system, a report said.

The Ha-Shilth Sa observes that the West Main Forest Service Road is often jammed with vehicles at night.

Timmy Masso, a Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation member, said he was “disappointed” at the pollution and disregard for the provincial-wide ban on campfires.

He said, “I cannot allow my territory to become a Las Vegas.” He notes in the report that they are not ready for the number of tourists coming to their area, and all the excess is going to the back roads.

He organized a road closing of west main on Tuesday, August 10, to expel campers and prevent tourists from the area.

He said he hopes closing the road will shed light on the situation and help “get everyone to the same table.”

Tla-oqui-aht First Nation elected Chief Moses Martin said he understood Masso’s pain.

According to the report, concerns about “all the campers” and the trash and debris they leave behind are frequently brought up to the chief and council.

He said that it is an issue to address, and it will take collaboration with Ucluelet and Tofino, and neighboring tribes to make it happen.

Martin released a statement on August 10 calling for a meeting of regional leaders, First Nations and Tourism Tofino representatives, as well as federal and provincial government officials, “to solve the critical issue, said the report.

According to the report, Chuck McCarthy, President of Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ First Nation, met with Masso on Tuesday. He said that to address potential fire hazards and health risks, they need to work together.

The Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District (ACRD) reached out to the provincial government, First Nations, and federal agencies in the spring of 2021 to discuss strategies to address concerns about “large numbers of transient campers” in the west main area by 2020, according to the Ministry of Lands, Natural Resource Operations and Rural Development.

According to the ministry, a working committee was formed that included representatives from the ACRD and local First Nations and all levels of government. The report stated that three meetings were held between February 2021 and July 2021 to discuss strategies for managing the issue.

The ministry stated that natural resource officers visited the sites and conducted an inventory along the west main. They also educated the public about the Land Act, camping rules and displayed signage with information about the Land Act, the report added.

Hjalmer Wenstob, Masso’s older brother, tried to clean up the area by setting up a campground and removing “long-term” squatters during a summer internship at Tribal Parks nine years ago.

He said that the barricades had been torn down and that all the picnic tables Tribal Parks had constructed were piled up and set ablaze when he returned to Redneck Beach following the May long weekend.

Wenstob said that the damage caused by the forest fire resulted in eight trees being felled into a lake to stop it from spreading further, the report said.

Since then, he has avoided the area as it is “too upsetting.”

He said, “There’s lots of drug activity.” There’s a lot of violence. There is a lot of trash everywhere. I won’t be bringing my children here. This is not a place where you can have fun. It’s a place that really hurts my heart.”

Instead, he carved a sign welcoming visitors to Tlao-qui-aht Ha’houlthee (traditional territories), and it was hung along Highway 4.

He said, “At the very least, there would have been an acknowledgment of our people as well as an acknowledgment about the territory we are in.”

Masso, encouraged by the support, said that he believed change was possible.

He said, “I hope [change] will continue to happen.” “So that we can assess the situation properly and open it up for people to return. We must treat people with respect when they come in,” the report stated.

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