The May long weekend brought out the best in weather across the North West, unfortunately it also inspired some of the worst behavior by Rupert youth. While most B. C. Forest Service (BCFS) Recreation sites were respected despite the party atmosphere, the “user maintained” mantra of one particular site - the Exstew recreation site 35 kilometres west of Terrace - was completely ignored and the area trashed.
“There was a lot of people that I talked too. They let me know the majority of people were from Prince Rupert,” said Chris Spangl, compliance and enforcement technician for the Kalum Forest District.
“We did run some [license] plates and we’ll run more.”
While it’s a rough estimate, Spangl believes nearly 90 per cent, (most of them under-25), of the recreation sites occupants during the holiday weekend were from this city.
“It’s been a traditional thing that half of Rupert comes up,” he said.
While the tradition has usually amounted to good clean fun ? campers make a mess but clean it up after - this year was particularly bad as many parents dropped their children off at the site and hightailed it back home.
“I would have hoped that any parent that came there ready to pick-up their kids on Monday would have said this place is a mess,” he said. “If they dropped them off, they knew what they came with.”
When Spangl left the campers on Friday at 9 p.m. there was already 130 of them sharing 12 camp sites. More people arrived later Friday night and early Saturday, he said.
“The result was that by Tuesday morning, over four and a half very full truck loads of garbage, two pick-up loads of empty beer and liquor containers and one totally trashed pick-up truck were left behind on site,” he said.
Forest Service employees spent much of Tuesday cleaning the site, primarily for their concern that a resident black bear sow and her new cub would become habituated to the garbage and would cause problems for future campers.
“I was thinking we should leave the mess and say get back here and clean it up as soon as possible or we’ll send you the bill,” said Spangl.
However, as the site had been closed in the past after a grizzly sow and her cub became trash dependent, and a danger to campers, BCFS decided they had no choice but to cleanup the mess.
“Forest Service employees attended the site over the weekend and handed out over 50 large heavy duty garbage bags,” said Spangl. "[We] were trusting the word of campers that they would clean up their messes.
“This trust has been shattered.”
Human excrement was found throughout the site, on the beaches, in the bushes and even directly outside of the outhouses. Items left behind included broken B.B.Q.'s., wrecked tents, destroyed lawn-chairs, at least one couch that was burned in a bonfire as well as the aforementioned wrecked pick-up truck.
“It was obviously brought with the intent to destroy it because it was already pulled off the road by the RCMP on May 2 in Prince Rupert with a requirement for inspection,” he said.
On Sunday, Spangl had visited the recreation site and asked campers to take the truck off the beach, as well as quads and dirt bikes that had been running up and down the sand bars.
“When I said you’ve got to get the vehicle off the beach, they got a little crusty with me,” he said.
This attitude change led BCFS personnel to take down more then 30 license plates.
“If we wanted to get heavy handed we could send fines to everybody we have plates of,” said Spangl. “We don’t want to be heavy handed.”
Instead, the Kalum Forest District has sent a letter to both of Rupert’s high schools to request students who were there over the weekend ? Spangl stresses that it’s unclear at this time if the event was grad related ? take responsibility for their actions.
“It’s unacceptable behaviour to not take your garbage back with you.”
While three or four sites were cleaned up well, the rest were littered with garbage and broken glass.
“Of particular concern is the amount of broken glass left behind on the river’s edge, where future campers might think it safe to walk barefoot in the sand,” he said. “Further attempts will be made to make the site safe, but the Forest Service is considering options for this and other recreation sites that present problems.”
These options include anything from total vehicular access closure, creating a half kilometre walk in to the site, to total closure of the area.
“The Forest Service understands fully that this is patently unfair to responsible campers, but budgets do not allow for on-going high clean up costs,” said Spangl.
Along with the license plate numbers over they recorded, BCFS found many receipts with debit card numbers and names in the garbage that was scattered around. They are considering the option of fines against these individuals.