A group of campers left everything behind but the kitchen sink on a Vancouver Island beach last weekend.
“Certain people think coming out to Port Renfrew to camp is a ticket to the wild west,” said Victoria resident Cynthia Carlsen, who lives in Port Renfrew for half of the year.
“In the summer, or any time there is a long weekend or event out here, some people will set up camp in unsupervised areas and suddenly, all things go. They think they can do whatever they want because the likelihood of them being held accountable is realistically pretty slim.”
She described an incident that took place last weekend, where a vehicle and camper parts, garbage, a mattress, lawn chairs, beer cans and boxes, and even fecal matter and female hygiene products were left in an area along Gordon River Road.
“They also tore down a bunch of trees in their path, which is how I assume their bumper got ripped off,” said Carlsen. “It seems like as soon as they got some alcohol in them they went crazy. A campsite shouldn’t be any different than a hotel room in my opinion, you should take out what you bring in.”
Carlsen’s friend found the trashed area and did his best to clean it up. He sent photos of the mess to Carlsen, which she posted on social media.
“I believe if we can maximize exposure to this ongoing problem, plus provide a bit of insight and education as to how exactly their actions harm the environment, then maybe people will smarten up,” said Carlsen.
“Every year this problem is anticipated. It’s been going on forever, but as more people find out about Port Renfrew, and we see higher volumes of campers, the problem seems to get worse,” explained Carlsen, adding that during the summer months is when the garbage issue is most prominent.
Mike Hicks, electoral director for the Juan de Fuca, said the Capital Regional District does its best to discourage people from leaving and dumping their garbage out in the bush, but it’s a constant and ongoing battle.
“If we catch someone, we do everything we can to make sure they are prosecuted,” said Hicks, adding that if someone is caught leaving a mess they can face a $10,000 fine.
“There’s no excuses for it. There’s a transfer station on the side of the road when you’re leaving Port Renfrew, there’s one in Sooke, Langford, all over. It probably costs these people just as much in gas to take it out to the bush as it would to take the garbage to a dump, because I’m sure it’s not the local people doing it.”
Hicks added that the problem is happening all over in rural areas of the CRD, and it’s frustrating for locals who are left to clean up the mess.
“It’s a real plague on society, this type of silly, stupid, irresponsible behaviour,” said Hicks. “There are about 360,000 people in the CRD and I think it’s a very small percentage of them that are ruining it for everyone. I don’t know what the solution is, I think the only way things will change is through social pressure.”
Carlsen agreed, saying: “A picture is worth a thousand words, and the photos we have really show the ignorance of people. I guess all we can do is keep shaming them, and hopefully they will get caught.”
She added that the repetitive devastation left behind in the area has left residents feeling like they are running in circles trying to find a solution.
“We could monitor the areas and try to enforce the law better, but we don’t really want to have to do that,” said Carlsen.
“I know that police come out here on the long weekends, so maybe they could make that part of their routine. They could write down licence plates if they find a group camping in an unsupervised area, and warn them if they leave a mess behind they will be fined.”
Sooke RCMP say they are always monitoring the area over the long weekends, but this weekend in particular was very busy for them.
Police responded to 68 calls, including a man brandishing a hammer at campers in Port Renfrew, and numerous reports regarding a female being struck by a vehicle on the Pacific Marine Road, near Port Renfrew, who possibly lunged in front of the vehicle.
Over the night of Monday and Tuesday, 10 vehicles were broken into at the parking lot of Sombrio Beach. Vehicle windows were smashed in during the thefts, and locked glove boxes pried open.
Nine of the weekend complaints were traffic related, including a racing motorcycles, erratic driving, excessive speeding, and impaired driving. There were only car crashes reported.