Bymac campsite in Houston. (Angelique Houlihan photo/Houston Today)

Council needs to deal with long-term Bymac campers, warns councillor

Winter is on its way, notes Tom Stringfellow

The District of Houston will have to face the challenge of dealing with a continuing population living at Bymac Park and other locations sooner or later, a councillor told his fellow council members when they met Aug. 15.

“Once we close Bymac Park, once winter sets in, where in the community can they go,” councillor Tom Stringfellow said of people living in tents and trailers at the District-owned campground.

Stringfellow raised the issue in reporting on a meeting of the local harm reduction committee set up to deal with addictions and the consequences of addictions within the community.

“A few sites were talked about but we just don’t have anything written in stone, but where are they doing to go and whether they want to go there,” he said.

“You can give them what they want, but what they think they want but it’s not necessarily what they want for washing or a shower or whatever.”

While there were no solutions presented at the hard reduction meeting, Stringfellow said councill needs to be better informed to make the best decisions possible when the issue reaches the stage of requiring council to take action.

He did say that a person acting as a representative of the Bymac Park community was at the meeting to provide the perspective of people there.

The matter of people living in temporary quarters was also raised by a member of the community during the public comment portion of council’s Aug. 15 meeting.

Kayla Proctor asked council if it was aware of the shelters being built behind the curling rink.

“I’ve noticed they’re starting to build permanent structures. And I was curious if the town has any plans to avert that or if they’re building little houses back there. They have a lot of building materials accumulated,” she said.

Mayor Shane Brienen told Proctor there’s no strategy yet but that council will look at the issue in the coming weeks.

He also encouraged members of the community to contact the District office if they see similar accommodations being established.

Council did respond in early summer to community concerns about longer-term campers at Bymack Park by posting rules about conduct at the park and how it should be used.

Those rules range from the requirement to have pets on a leash at all times — and to clean up after them — to the need for all vehicles and trailers to have active licence plates and insurance.

The maximum stay per campsite is to be 14 consecutive days and excessive noise is not permitted between 11 p.m. and 7 a.m. Monday to Saturday and 11 p.m. to 9 a.m. Sundays and statutory holidays. The noise regulations are contained in a municipal bylaw.

Other rules to be posted include leaving a campsite in the same condition that it was found upon arrival and storing food in vehicles or airtight containers to avoid attracting bears or other wildlife.

There’s also been no set way to collect those fees other than placing money in a container at the park or going to the municipal hall.