Almost three weeks ago, The Squamish Chief newspaper ran an article that indicated a parcel of land near Brennan Park Recreation Centre passed its ‘second reading of a zoning bylaw amendment’ that would ‘clear the way’ for a new rustic campground. The idea of a rustic campground in this area (2023 Centennial Way) was first proposed by John Harvey and the Mamquam River Access Society (MRAS) in 2014. Since then, The Mamquam River Access Society (MRAS) has gone through the motions of applying to the Provincial Crown for a 30 Year Community-Institutional Lease on a parcel of land and that application will go to public hearing on Tuesday Feb. 2, 2016 at a Townhall meeting.
In recent years, Squamish has become increasingly busy in the summer. With most campgrounds too expensive or full, wild camping has become the norm, especially in and around the banks of the Stawamus River and some of the bouldering areas down the Mamquam River Forest Service rd. With the increase of wild camping, there has also been an increase of problems. From fires left unattended to trash attracting wildlife, these ‘wild’ sites have had a negative impact on our climbing areas and without a long-term solution, there may be no end in sight. Squamish Climbing Magazine thought it best to check with John Harvey to see what is in store for the proposed campground site and how The Mamquam River Access Society (MRAS) plans to solve some of the issues that has shut down camping in this area in the past. Here is what he had to say.
Hi John, thanks for taking the time to chat with us. How are things?
The bureaucracy takes forever but the campground vision is getting closer. A public hearing at the Squamish Municipal Hall takes place Tuesday, Feb 2nd, 2016, where the Mamquam River Access Society defends its application to rezone the land to allow for campground use. A recent article in the Chief News has the Squamish and District Forestry Association claiming we need to save it for industry. The climbing community could help support this by attending Council Chambers at 6:00 PM on Tuesday, Feb 2nd.
To give our readers a little background. About a year and a half ago you partnered with CASBC and had a fundraiser at the brewpub to open an affordable campground on crown land near the Brennan Park Recreation Centre. Can you bring us up to speed on what has happened from then to now?
Back in 2014, MRAS got endorsements and some fun films from the pillar sports that represent Squamish’s history as the outdoor rec capital (CASBC, SORCA, Sq Windsports and Sq Paddling Club). With an accompanying Silent Auction we raised $7000 which enabled us to get Environmental Testing and a Riparian Area Report done. An application to the Crown for a 30 Year Community/Institutional Lease is in the works and MRAS has applied to the CRA for Charity status. We’re hoping that we can begin fundraising this summer and break ground next year.
In your words, what is the plan for the campground by the recreation centre? What is your vision of how it will run and how it will be affordable?
As a not-for-profit, MRAS hopes to keep this as cheap as possible. The three commercial campgrounds are all $30/night. The local Provincial Parks are totally booked and overflowing. The one small municipal campground has no separation between sites and isn’t all that aesthetic. Our proposed location is adjacent to the beautiful Mamquam River and if done right, could provide a beautiful setting for a tent campground. There won’t be any RV services as there’s an RV Campground closer to the Brennan Park Rec Centre. It will depend on how much and how fast we fundraise but there’s much to be done. We need at least $100,000.00. The land needs remediation before starting development on campground. The campground will be rustic but it will encourage no-trace and eco-friendly and hopefully go at $15/site/night. Some of the 50 sites will be ‘walk-in’ only but many will be drive-in single family sites. Firewood will be available. Accommodating the dirtbag camper-van here for a month to climb for less than $15/night …. we’re not sure at this point but we’re willing to consider something.
One of the main concerns of any campground is human waste and climbers are no exception. How will human waste be managed at the new site? Does the campground plan to have all the amenities of other campgrounds, like the Squamish Chief or already established Brennan Park Campground?
The campground will be fed by well water and sewage will be by port-a-potty. Grey water will be treated appropriately. It will be rustic to start, but the longterm vision certainly includes proper washrooms, showers and laundry.
One of the problems with climber campgrounds near rivers is that people tend to wash their dishes in the river or the run off from the campground ends up leaching into the river and affecting the fish population, as occurred in Averstal, Switzerland. The proposed location is also close to a spawning channel for salmon. If the crown land does go to a campground, will their be an environmental assessment on river impact and how do you plan to manage the leaching of washing products, such as dish soap?
The historic climbers campsite alongside the Mamquam River was on the river dyke but the new Riparian Area Regulations unfortunately won’t allow us that access. The campground site will be setback 30 meters with only two trail accesses through to the dyke and river so campers will not go all the way to the river when a nearby Grey Water area for dishes is effectively created.
For those who don’t know. what is a Riparian Area Report and what did it say for this site?
The Riparian Area Report is the environmental regulations that stipulate no development within 30 Meters of any water source unless one can prove undue hardship or ‘grandfathered’ nature of their predicament. So, in our case,
though there was many years of camping on the dyke, we’re not allowed to utilize the dyke for camping anymore.
How would grey water be treated after use?
Grey water would be drained into a septic tank and septic field as required by Health regulations. The latest hurdle is that Vancouver Coastal Health wants the District to bring (water & sewer) services up Centennial Way to the campground at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars. I’m assuming this is standard language and will not be required in our circumstance. MRAS certainly can’t afford such costs and would be forced to give up campground vision.
What’s the plan for future fundraising?
It won’t be easy. I’m hoping that MEC will step up to the plate as they mostly do. I’m also hoping other recreation industry players will contribute. I’m hoping other corporate players will contribute. The first fundraiser we did showed tons of support from all corners of Squamish. I’ve fundraised a few times before and get the sense that this particular project is so important that it speaks for itself. It’s the best land-use for this strategic location and will totally compliment the Outdoor Rec Capital. I will engage the help of computer-savy young people to help me advertise on the internet, facebook, Go Fund Me, etc.
For those looking to get involved, who would they talk to?
I founded this small, grass roots organization (MRAS) in 2008 with a few friends and associates. Our original mandate was to maintain “free” drivable access to the Mamquam River Kayak Race Site and enhance other trails around the river. Now we’re focusing on developing a campground. Though we haven’t received Charity status yet, we hope we will by May. This allows us to issue tax receipts and fundraising is made easier. MRAS has a website and we’re working out payment options.
Mamquam River Access Society,
Box 3530, Garibaldi Highlands, BC, V0N 1T0
Thanks for the info John. Keep us posted as the campground progresses!