Coalmont man defends decision to host campers, despite stay-at-home advisories

“People all figure if you come from the coast there is a virus trail”

A Coalmont area man who opened a small private campground on his property over the Easter long weekend – garnering considerable media attention – told The Spotlight he’s not sure what all the fuss was about.

Ernie Rice said he regrets that people were upset about the campers, but insisted all his visitors behaved responsibly.

“They all knew the situation. They were all spaced out and they were social distancing.”

Rice holds the maintenance contract for the adjacent Granite Creek recreation site, and said these campers stay on his own property each year.

All provincial camping sites remain closed during the COVID 19 crisis.

Related: Law enforcement will patrol shuttered campgrounds in Cascades this weekend

However a group of 14 friends were invited to the Rice property to camp for the weekend.

He said they brought their own food and supplies.

Rice stressed the stay-at-home direction from the province is “not an order, it’s an advisory.”

He added there is no reason to assume his visitors were sick or had been exposed to the virus.

“People all figure if you come from the coast there is a virus trail, like a chem trail that follows you.”

Getting away from the congestion of the city is important for peoples’ mental health, he added.

Police visited the Coalmont property Friday. An officer found approximately nine trailers, according to Princeton RCMP Sgt. Rob Hughes.

“It’s private property….Yes, the people broke the (rule) about non-essential travel. They are practicing social distancing and the information will be forwarded to the provincial health office on Tuesday.”

RCMP don’t have the authority to make arrests or recommend charges under the circumstances, he said.

Hughes explained in some jurisdictions police are able to ticket offenders under municipal or city bylaws. However, there are no such bylaws in Princeton or the RDOS.

He added social media photos of the makeshift camping area did not fairly illustrate the distance between the trailers.

Related: Long weekend vacationers flood to rural Princeton, cause stir for government, RCMP

Many people took to social media to express concern about the situation, amid related reports of a flood of visitors pouring into area holiday communities like Tulameen.

“What the hell are these people doing here?” asked Bob Coyne, Area H director for the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS).

“The federal government has asked them to stay at home. The province has asked them to stay at home. What is wrong with these people?”

Coyne reiterated his concerns that out-of-town visitors create stress on the supply chain of Princeton’s only grocery store, put first responders at risk, and could easily overwhelm the town’s small hospital in the event of an outbreak.

Related: Spike of visitors to Princeton-area stressing grocery supply chain and healthcare teams

To report a typo, email:
publisher@similkameenspotlight.com
.



andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Enderby’s drive-in not safe from top doc’s 50-car limit

Starlight Drive-In opened with reduced capacity, COVID-19 safety measures in place

COVID-19: Parking lot patios a go in Vernon

Council votes in favour of allowing businesses to expand commercial space into on-street parking spots

Vernon gym knocked out by COVID-19

9Round Fitness in Vernon Square Mall owners announce permanent closure of facility

North Okanagan regional district board delays food scraps ban

Move is to help businesses and organizations during pandemic

2019 payroll costs City of Vernon $26M

City discloses remuneration report and CAO is top earner

Video: Okanagan mayors encourage water conservation this summer

Water conservation this summer could be more important than ever, experts say

B.C. First Nation adopts Dr. Bonnie Henry, names her ‘one who is calm among us’

Gitxsan officially adopts the provincial health officer in a May 22 ceremony

Shuswap cabin owner disputes request to stay home in Alberta

Alberta resident redrafts response to CSRD request to stay home

Petition seeks to clean up Okanagan forests ‘carpeted’ with shotgun shells

Penticton man says making shot-gun shells refundable would create cleaner forests

Kelowna’s main drag will be closed to vehicles this summer

Kelowna’s Bernard Avenue will be a pedestrian-only roadway from June 29 through the Labour Day long weekend

Snapshot: Distanced dancing in Salmon Arm

Friends use picnic shelter at Blackburn Park for safe practice

Kelowna’s Homebase Baseball Tournament cancelled

A live auction will still take place to raise funds for Joeanna’s House

Kelowna General Hospital Foundation launches fundraising initiative to support local health care

The initiative also highlights workers at Kelowna General Hospital

Kelowna man charged with harming a hamster

The 20-year-old Kelowna man faces several animal cruelty charges

Most Read