Four-month camping limit questioned

Entrance to Fort Camping on Brae Island. - Dan FERGUSON / Langley Times
Entrance to Fort Camping on Brae Island.
— image credit: Dan FERGUSON / Langley Times

A decline in registration for the winter months is hurting one of Langley’s most popular campsites, Fort Camping on Brae Island.

Situated on the banks of the Bedford Channel, the campsite has 156 sites, a day use area, a large summer day camp program and outdoor education programs.

However, over the past four winters, occupancy has been declining, and a big part of the reason is that long-term overnight stays cannot exceed four months.

Despite advertising, trade shows and lowering its rates, Fort Camping experienced its lowest winter occupancy since the Duckworth Management Group took over in 2002.

“There is a lot of interest in staying at Brae Island for the winter but we are unable to turn interest into sales,” said general manager Stan Duckworth.

“Feedback from our customers indicates that with a maximum stay of four months, they are faced with finding new accommodations in January and February, depending on their registration day,” he wrote in a letter to Township council.

Duckworth, who leases the land from Metro Vancouver Parks, said that campers staying over the winter months are those who come to the Lower Mainland for medical treatment,  Prairie Snowbirds escaping the cold winters, and those who have contracts in the area that run for five to six months.

The B.C. Lodging and Campgrounds Association has been monitoring the drop in the number of RV parks and campgrounds that offer overnight camping. Association president Jim Humphrey said that the City of Surrey’s limit of 182 days (six months) “is a good compromise, as it prevents longer term stays moving from a ‘licence to occupy’ to a ‘tenancy.’

It also allows the RV park or campground operator an income source that taps into the winter seasonal rentals, and give the operators much-needed revenue during the off-season. Humphreys wrote.

The four-month limit “is just another blow to Fort Langley, the business in Fort Langley and I think we would be putting a third strike on Fort Langley,” if the limit isn’t eased, said Councillor Charlie Fox.

He said the first blow was the Jan. 4 fire that destroyed the IGA, and the second the closure at the end of May of Frontier Building Supplies.

There are some campgrounds in Langley that are “grandfathered,” meaning that they still can still offer six-month occupancies.

Council asked staff to prepare a bylaw on the camping limits.

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