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Vancouver Island campgrounds gear up for ‘busy’ May long weekend; non-Islanders not welcome

The May long weekend is approaching – and when you mix in sunny skies and warmer weather, it’s the perfect excuse for a weekend camping getaway.

Vancouver Island is well-known for its scenic campgrounds that often attract not only locals, but those residing on the mainland and beyond.

But BC Hydro spokesperson Stephen Watson assures there’s no reason for local campers to worry about non-Islanders setting up shop – or in this case, tents – on campgrounds within the Island Health region this weekend. 

More specifically, at the Upper Campbell River Reservoir Campground. BC Hydro manages the property, and Watson says it opened up a few months ago, replacing the old Strathcona Campground which closed for good last fall.

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“Since February, we’ve had the new campground up and running. It’s all been going well. Of course, we have travel restrictions with Covid, and things of that nature,” he explains.

Watson says a contractor checks in on the campground twice a day to make sure things are running smoothly and ensure everyone staying there should be staying there.

Last month, as the new travel restrictions came into play, Watson told Vista Radio the Upper Reservoir Campground would be turning non-Islanders away.

READ MORE: Non-Islanders no longer welcome at Upper Campbell Reservoir Campground

He now tells us there are a few tactics in place to make this work: “We have signs that say you need to be within the Island Health region to stay there. If you’re not, the camper is asked to leave,” he says.

“Our contractor does keep track of who’s staying there, and of course we have a two-week window in terms of the maximum stay people can be there. We do monitor it quite closely.” 

The campground runs on a first-come, first-serve basis, meaning reservations aren’t required. There are 21 campsites in total, and Watson says the campground has probably been about half-full on average so far this year, although there were three times in April it was full. 

“So far in May, there’s been one day where it was full,” he notes.

But with the long weekend just days away, Watson predicts the campground – given there’s no charge to stay there – “will be quite busy.”

He’s not worried though: “I think locally within the Vancouver Island area, it’s been pretty good. People have been abiding by the various Provincial Health Officer rules and all those kinds of things.”

Plus, there’s no way non-Islanders can get on the Island unless it’s essential. BC Ferries says no additional sailings are scheduled for this weekend, as it continues to deny service to customers travelling for non-essential reasons on routes crossing regional zones.

READ MORE: BC Ferries reminding everyone travel restrictions are in place as May long approaches

“I mean for us, the campground is there,” Watson adds. “It’s free camping, it’s right on the shores, it has great views of the upper Campbell River watershed. We’re just there to provide a recreation amenity.”

“If it’s near full, that would be great,” he explains. “We wouldn’t want it to be full and overflowing, or with people lined up… that wouldn’t be great, for obvious reasons.”

Watson says they’re now waiting to hear when the travel restrictions will be lifted. They came into effect on April 23rd and were expected to last for five weeks – meaning everything would be eased after the long weekend.

“So once that’s lifted, then we can go back to wherever you’re from, you can stay there for two weeks,” he says. “But until that’s lifted, then it will be as it is right now – for just people within the Island Health region.”

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