Following the serious flooding that took place September 11th, Kitimat has been thinking what can be done to avoid a repeat of campers getting washed away.
In a memo from staff to council, one thought was to bar access to the beach area for informal camping, but the council has ruled that move out now. Camping at the water’s edge has been a contentious issue for years, but the severity of the flash flood doesn’t change the fact the area is provincial crown land and the district has no say. But road access to it isn’t and that could lead to three gates being erected at a cost of $25,000. Another recommendation would see Hirsch Creek closed to vehicle traffic. The cost to fix dyke road is estimated to be about $15,000.
If the idea is followed up, gates would be located at the pumphouse, west of the giant spruce and at the entrance to the pollution control centre. While they would stop vehicles, they wouldn’t prevent foot access to the water’s edge. The gates could be left open and closed in times of emergency like more floods, fires or other scenarios. If the current system of camping along the river is allowed to continue, new signage should be erected warning about the flash flood dangers.
The memo says the flooding highlighted that no party is responsible for monitoring river flows and therefore flooding like what happened in September could very well happen again.
The gate idea didn’t catch on with the council. They instead voted to set up a user group to examine access and camping mayor Phil Germuth says council doesn’t want to make a hasty decision. He says there are financial considerations to be taken into account as well as the responsibility the district would have to assume. The multi-jurisdictional situation that would occur needs clarification. For example, Germuth points out there is a 14-day limit on camping on crown land, but no one is enforcing it.
Council did vote to close Hirsch Creek park for the rest of the year because the road got washed out and needs to be repaired.