Centennial Park camping issue isn’t going away

After a pro-camping presentation by Victoria Motorcycle Club member Pat Foster, council again decided to bring the issue of Centennial Park camping forward, to their Tuesday, June 21, committee meetings.

  • Jun. 20, 2011 8:00 p.m.

The Centennial Park camping issue doesn’t seem capable of dying.

After a pro-camping presentation by Victoria Motorcycle Club member Pat Foster, council again decided to bring the issue of Centennial Park camping forward, to their Tuesday, June 21, committee meetings.

But the motion to carry the issue forward almost didn’t happen.

Following Foster’s presentation, during council’s Tuesday, June 14, committee meetings, mayor Ross Forrest asked if anyone had any comments on the issue.

With no takers, council began going on to the next issue on the agenda, until councillor Bob Day decided to weigh in.

“I feel the same as the delegation,” he said, adding that the town is sending a clear message that they don’t want these visiting groups to come into town.

“The more and more I think about this the more I get sick to my stomach,” he said. “We’re probably going to lose that curling event.”

The camping issue at Centennial Park is not a new one. Last year, mayor and council unanimously motioned that it would be the last year campers would be allowed at Centennial Park for special events.

These events included the Summer Curling Bonspiel, and a Victoria Motorcycle Club weekend riding event.

As a result of a meeting with Cowichan Rocks Curling Club president Thor Repstock, Day and Forrest brought the issue up with council a second time, earlier this year, in hopes of re-assessing the camping situation.

During a subsequent council meeting, Forrest and Day voted in favour of allowing camping at Centennial Park for special events, while councillors Franklin Hornbrook and Jayne Ingram voted against allowing camping.

The vote resulted in the anti-campers’ favour.  Councillor Tim McGonigle was not present at the meeting.

At the June 14 meeting, McGonigle said that his vote wouldn’t have made a difference, because at that time he would have voted alongside Hornbrook and Ingram against allowing camping.

Introducing her June 14 presentation, Foster said that she was not representing the Victoria Motorcycle Club as she has done during past meetings.

“I’m here speaking on my own behalf,” she said.

With mill closures and more of a local focus on tourism-related industry, Foster said that she was surprised council decided to disallow camping at Centennial Park, after a long tradition of having allowed it to take place.

“By not allowing camping at Centennial Park you are sending a mixed message,” she said.

“Other communities are competing with us for these (visiting) groups… It is sad that people aren’t welcome in the area.”

“Perhaps down the road there will be soccer and more ball tournaments if we encourage people to come and stay.”

Following Foster’s presentation, McGonigle said that he’s open for discussion.

“I’m all for new ideas… For not closing the doors,” he said.

On the other side of the coin, Ingram and Hornbrook maintained their firm stance against allowing Centennial Park camping, with Ingram stating that a lot of thought process has been missing from discussions.

“We need to have some big discussions on this,” she said.

“We have to hear from the other side,” Hornbrook added.

“How do we know if there is another side if we’ve never seen them?” Forrest asked.

Although an anti-camping delegation has not visited council, Hornbrook cited a letter to the editor from resident Joe Dorey – who lives next to Centennial Park – that was printed in the June 15 issue of the Gazette.

With council already having voted against allowing camping at Centennial Park twice in the past year, Hornbrook said that he’s confused as to why it’s still an issue being raised at meetings.

“I don’t see anything new coming to the table,” he said.

Despite Hornbrook and Ingram’s noted opposition, council motioned 3-2 to bring the issue forward again, during the Tuesday, June 21 committee meetings, for possible policy discussions.

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