Kennedy Lake is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, but more resources are needed to make sure those visiting the area are respecting their surroundings. (Westerly file photo)

Tofino-area First Nation considering closing doors to visitors again

Swamped with tourists, scared of COVID-19, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation says more support needed

COVID-19 cases are on the rise throughout B.C.

Tourists are continuing to pour into the Tofino area at a significantly higher clip than expected.

And the resident Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation is concerned enough that it is ready to close access to the Tribal Parks program in its territory unless more West Coast businesses step up with the resources needed to manage the the threat those combined factors pose.

“If a sustainable solution cannot be achieved by engaging widespread participation in the Tribal Park Allies certification standard, then it will not be possible for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to continue welcoming guests into our Tribal Parks,” reads a statement released by the TFN, whose traditional territories include Tofino, Clayoquot Sound, and areas within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

RELATED: Disgruntled Tofino residents say visitors turning town into a free-for-all

RELATED: Ucluelet RCMP increase patrol at Kennedy watershed

“The safety of our community members cannot continue to be compromised by a tourism economy which does not contribute to crucial community services…Our Nation opened our Tribal Parks to support an economic recovery for our Tribal Parks Allies and for local residents dependent on the tourism economy,” the statement reads.

The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation ended a COVID-19-related territory in June while the neighbouring Ahousaht and Hesquiaht nations decided to remain closed. TFN Tribal Administrator Saya Masso told the VI Free Daily that the volume of tourists hammering the West Coast since has taken the region by surprise. Closing Tribal Parks has been discussed, but is not the desired outcome.

The Tribal Park Allies program asked for a voluntary one per cent ‘user fee’ that participating businesses ask from customers. The money goes towards mitigating the social and environmental impacts of tourism.

“We expect that tourists that are coming here to see a beautiful area would be willing to pay an extra penny on their dollar,” Masso said, reiterating that the money does not come from the business operator, but is a voluntary one percent ‘user fee’ paid for by customers.

“We’re not trying to hurt the bottom line of businesses…We’re trying to collaborate with the tourists that value coming to a clean and well-serviced area.”

The program is currently helping to fund patrols by Tribal Park Guardians as well as checkpoints set up to prevent COVID-19 from spreading into vulnerable First Nation communities.

Masso said stronger participation in the program could lead to additional funding for resources like sewage treatment and healthcare services.

So far, roughly 37 businesses have signed up for the program, but a call out by the Nation in July did not yield the buy-in that was hoped for.

“We know it’s busy, but there is a disappointment…It does beg the question, would more businesses have signed on if we had remained closed?” Masso said.

“All the leaders regionally talk about building back better and talk about building back to overcome crises such as these and having a more resilient health care system et cetera and this should have been part of reopening…It shouldn’t have just been words, it should have been action. We’d been closed for four months when we should have been eyes open to how to build back better and we see this tool as one of the tools needed to build back better.”

RELATED: Tourism Tofino says visitors generate $240 million annually

Masso added that the disrespect being shown by some visitors to the region is “saddening and disappointing” and he noted the impacts of those irresponsible behaviours underline the need for more robust stewardship and guardianship.

“It just highlights that we’re under-resourced…We need a regular presence for education and outreach in our backroads and on our beaches,” he said. “As Canadians, you would hope that if you found a quiet place in the forest, you would leave it as you found it and that’s not the case. We’re finding propane tanks and tarps and abandoned lawn chairs and tents that are broken after a weekend and left amongst all the litter and cans and bottles and garbage, it’s just a tremendous amount of refuse.”

Masso said participants in the program would help contribute to a “healthy and beautiful Clayoquot Sound,” by empowering Tribal Park Guardians with more resources.

“We open our homeland to the millions of tourists a year and to do that we need these tools to be able to continue to be open safely,” he said. “We think that businesses would understand that and that we’re symbiotically linked.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

We’re excited to welcome our newest members of the Tribal Parks Alliance! Today we signed a protocol agreement with…

Posted by Tribal Parks Allies on Tuesday, September 1, 2020



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusFirst NationsTofino,Tourism

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Grand Forks demonstrators call for sustainable logging across the Boundary

Protest was one of many across British Columbia Friday, Sept.17

Grand Forks residents suing province, logging companies on behalf of 2018 flood victims

Lawsuit alleges B.C’s forest ministry and logging companies contributed significantly to devastating freshet

Two men killed in Hwy 3 collision west of Castlegar

The single-vehicle incident happened Thursday morning

March to protect old growth, stop industrial logging coming to B.C. Legislature

Organizers say they want to give frontline communities a bigger say in nearby logging

Health ministry to hire 33 new practitioners for Kootenay Boundary

Over 15,000 people in the region don’t have access to a primary care provider

B.C. reports 122 new COVID-19 cases as health officials urge smaller social circles

Health officials urge against shaming and blaming patients

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

70-year-old punched in the head in dispute over disability parking space in Nanaimo

Senior’s turban knocked off in incident at mall parking lot

Thousands of child care spaces coming to 35 B.C. communities

Province announces milestone in Childcare BC plan

Most Read