Eganville – Concerns over overnight parking at McRae Park have led to worries about tents, campfires and the park turning into a campground.
“The concern was that on two occasions there were five RVs there and the concern was it was going to turn to tents and bonfires,” Bonnechere Valley Mayor Jennifer Murphy said during a committee meeting of council last Tuesday.
Following the concerns raised by neighbours of the park, By-law Enforcement Officer Mark Schroeder did put up some no overnight camping signs, she added.
Council received a letter from a resident nearby who said she had called the public works department concerned about overnight camping in McRae Park on Grist Mill Road but had not received a full reply.
“We were told this wasn’t allowed and they would look into it,” an email from Sandy Ducharme to council stated. “We suggested some sort of signage be put up. Every weekend there are one, two, three or more camping vehicles out here.”
Councillor Tim Schison noted in his work as a truck driver he is on the road quite a bit and also likes to travel with his RV.
“It is sometimes very hard to find a place to pull over and just go to sleep so you can be safe and not cause accidents on the road,” he said. “I think we can kind of follow Walmart’s guideline (where no fires are allowed or campgrounds).”
There is a difference between parking and camping, he said.
“If someone pulls over to catch a few winks,” he said. “These are regular RVs. I’m not going to object to that.”
It is very convenient with the washrooms there, he said.
The mayor said some were just pulling in at night, but others were habitually using it as a campsite.
“The biggest concern was the tents and bonfires and barbecues and that kind of thing,” she said.
CAO Annette Gilchrist said temporary signs were put up which can be taken down.
“Are we putting up permanent signage?” she asked.
There would be the option of parking but no camping and clarifying what was considered camping.
“I am not concerned with parking,” Coun. Schison said, adding there is an RV dumping station down the road which makes it a logical place to stop.
“It is a good place to get a few hours sleep before going down the road again,” he said.
“If the legs are not down, they are basically parking. With no awnings set up,” he said.
There is a difference between camping and a parking spot, he stressed.
The temporary signs will be gone shortly, and it will be winter, Mrs. Gilchrist said. New signs could be installed in the spring, but staff needs direction on what to put on the signs.
Councillor Brent Patrick asked for a further recommendation from staff for signage. He questioned where people could stop, pointing out there is the dog park nearby and the dumping station.
“I would not want to see people rolling out a big smoker or having a big party or like that,” he said.
Pictures provided to council showed a variety of RVs pulled in and parked at the park.
“Honestly, I’m happy someone is using it. I’m happy someone is not driving 30 minutes and having an accident,” Coun. Patrick said.
Asking other municipalities how they handle parking in parks would be a good option as well, he said. In many ways, McRae Park is a logical spot to park.
“There is no rule about overnight parking at McRae Park,” the mayor said, agreeing it is important to make a distinction between parking and camping.
Coun. Schison said in many ways, McRae Park is a “goldmine” because there is a washroom and a nice spot to park. The township does not have an Irving’s as a place for people to stop and use a washroom, he said.
Councillor Merv Buckwald asked about parking at the tourist centre overnight. Coun. Schison said he could see why parking at McRae Park was seen as a good option because it was quieter.
Mayor Murphy noted the McRae Park committee also did not want to see a trickle-down effect where camping would begin.
“If we see it come to the point when it is a campground, we will have to take action then,” Coun. Schison said.
If people are not littering and destroying the park, there should not be a concern with parking, he said.
Council asked for a further recommendation from staff on signage.
“This is the first time we have had complaints about it,” Coun. Patrick said.
Debbi Christinck, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader