A homeowner who lives near Duncan’s McAdam Park is taking exception to some of the antics in the neighbourhood, which is mostly connected to the many homeless people who camp in the area.
Sandy Souci said she had to call the fire department more than 10 times last year after campers lit fires in the riparian zone near Fish Gut Alley, which is close to her home, with a couple of them almost getting out of control before being extinguished.
“There’s not so many fires so far this year, but that will change when the weather improves,” she said.
“I’m afraid that my house, and others in the neighbourhood could be burnt to the ground if one these fires does get out of control.”
Souci also said many of the campers who camp in the riparian zone and in the woods just south of her house have parties where loud screaming and laughing can be heard throughout the night, and then leave behind big piles of unsightly garbage and other debris.
She said she has called the City of Duncan to do something about the garbage and, while they sometimes come to clear it away, they often don’t.
“There’s also been an increase in crime in the neighbourhood, with stuff getting stolen all the time and there’s drug deals taking place right in front of my house,” Souci said.
“There are some places in McAdam Park where camping is allowed, and there are many of the campers that are responsible and we have no problems with them, but something needs to be done about a lot of them.”
Souci said many local residents have lost the enjoyment of their property as a result.
“We all have the right to enjoy our properties without being constantly being bothered by nuisances,” she said.
Paige McWilliam, a spokeswoman for the City of Duncan, said city officials are aware about people camping in the area that Souci has concerns with.
But she said it is located outside of the boundaries of the city-owned park, and is in the Municipality of North Cowichan’s fire service area.
“The city does remove garbage from within the park boundaries,” she said.
Martin Drakeley, North Cowichan’s senior manager of bylaw services, acknowledged that the municipality is primarily responsible for fire response in the area in question, but it’s Cowichan Tribes lands and under the First Nation’s jurisdiction.
Jason Seward, the senior bylaw officer for Cowichan Tribes, said the First Nation does get a lot of calls complaining about the homeless people in the area and is doing its best to deal with the concerns.
He said Cowichan Tribes conducted a major clean up of the area recently, at a cost of $40,000, but the campers keep coming back.
“It’s Cowichan Tribes’ lands, but it’s not our members who are camping there,” Seward said.
“We do go in and kick them all out, but they go back because they can hide out of sight in the woods. We’re pressuring the landowners on the land in our jurisdiction to cut trees down so they can’t hide and provide them with fuel for fires. One whole encampment went up recently when a couple pf propane tanks blew up, so we’re continuously monitoring the area.”
Seward said Cowichan Tribes is constantly working with the City of Duncan and the RCMP to try and keep the campers moving out of the area, but it’s hard to keep up during the ongoing homelessness crisis.
“We did charge someone, who had a warrant against him, for trespassing and maybe this is the way to go,” he said.
“But cutting down some of the trees in there will help as well.”