Mixed messages — at best — for Albertans hoping to pitch a tent on Vancouver Island
VICTORIA -- For many people across British Columbia, July is the heart of camping season.
However, if you want to camp on Vancouver Island, your odds of finding a welcoming spot are much better if you’re a B.C. resident.
The B.C. government has already declared that provincially owned campsites are for British Columbians only this summer.
Privately owned sites aren’t bound by that mandate, but many seem to be offering spots to B.C. residents only.
CTV News Vancouver Island contacted multiple campgrounds across the Island and many said they were only accepting guests who were British Columbia residents.
The Surf Grove Campground in Tofino said it was only allowing residents of B.C. to camp there for the time being. The Mackenzie Beach Resort campground provided the same response.
The Long Beach Golf & Campground said it would accept guests from out-of-province, but was recommending against them.
The phenomenon doesn’t seem to be isolated to Tofino.
The Sooke River Campground told CTV News it’s only taking guests who are B.C. residents. It was the same response from the Lakeview Park Campsite, a municipally run campground in Lake Cowichan.
Not all the privately run campsites CTV News contacted discouraged or banned out-of-province guests, however. The Crystal Cove Campground in Tofino is accepting guests from anywhere in Canada.
So is the Living Forest Oceanside Campground in Nanaimo. Its co-owner Rob Littlejohn said as long as the campground’s guests observe safe practices, visitors from other provinces are welcome.
“We are taking people from other provinces,” he said Friday. “We are asking them to be careful and social distance as B.C. residents are.”
That was welcome news for Stephane Valle and his brother, both from Alberta. A little rain Friday at the Nanaimo campground didn’t dampen their spirits.
“We always enjoy coming here for the summer, if we can,” said Valle as he and his brother set up camp.
Despite the cold shoulder from some Tofino campsites to non-British Columbians, the municipality’s mayor wants all Canadians, including Albertans, to know they’re welcome — even if at least three of the five private campgrounds in town aren’t so welcoming.
“I think what’s really important to focus on right now is the behaviour of people and not where they’re from,” said Mayor Josie Osborne. “So not where they live. No matter where you live in Canada, you are welcome here in Tofino.”
Osborne also notes it’s a very fluid situation, and said she expects more resorts and campsites to open up to Albertans, and others from across Canada.
“I think it is a confusing time right now and that’s one of the characteristics of the pandemic,” she said. “Information changes quite quickly and you have to stay on top of things.”
What is clear, however, with the international border closed to non-essential travel, American tourists are not welcome anywhere in B.C., including the Gulf Islands or Vancouver Island — where they’ve been spotted recently
Premier John Horgan weighed in on that Thursday.
“If you’re heading to Alaska, you don’t go through Port Renfrew and were hearing about it from communities all across the province.” Horgan told reporters.