'We're being pushed out': Campground operator takes unusual step to get minister's attention

Hopeful campers looking to book a site at Homesite Creek Campground on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast will make a puzzling discovery when they try to reserve.

The site claims the guy to call for bookings is Steve Thomson — otherwise known as B.C.'s Minister of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations. It lists Thomson's MLA email address, and tells campers to call his Victoria and Kelowna offices.

No, the minister isn't running a forest service campground on the side — as one concerned camper called CBC News to ask.

It turns out the former operators of the now-closed campground outside Sechelt, B.C., put Thomson's name on their site "out of desperation" last weekend to get his attention.

It has — but not with the outcome they hoped.

"Thank you for making us aware that Minister Thomson's name is being used inappropriately on the website," his ministry said in a statement Tuesday morning.

"We are looking at ways to have it removed."

'Ask for Steve'

Homesite Creek was closed in March of last year over concerns about using horse manure as fertilizer and a water license, said Robert Kennedy, who operated the campsite with his wife Debra, under a partnership agreement with the province.

The campground reopened later in the summer, he said, but the partnership agreement has since been cancelled.

"We're being pushed out," said Kennedy, over what he characterizes as disagreements with the local inspector that were "biased and unfair."

They wanted Thomson to look into the matter, he said.

"Out of desperation, my wife and I, over the weekend we put the minister's numbers and put his email address up," said Kennedy.

"We're not trying to annoy Steve at all. What we're trying to do is get him to respond."

Kennedy said telling would-be campers to "Ask for Steve" would help him understand the site's popularity.

"We're not just an average little forest service campground. We bring people in from all over the world."

'Safety and sanitary' issues

Campers who want to stay in the "quiet, forested campsite" near a small waterfall will remain out of luck, it seems.

Homesite Creek remains "closed until further notice," according to the government listing for the recreation site.

"No camping, gates are locked."

The ministry says the Kennedys had numerous opportunities over several years to fix problems at the site, and have not.

"Standards for safety and sanitation have not been met at Homesite Creek recreation site repeatedly over the past 3 years," said the ministry in a statement.

"The province remains concerned that the site operator is not able or willing to meet the conditions of the agreement and the cancellation was warranted."

The Kennedys call that statement false.

The campground won't reopen until the site "meets the minimum standards for health, safety and is consistent with public expectations for a provincial campground," the ministry said.