Nelson city council has decided to not keep the city campground open in the winter, at least not this year.
The idea came to council following the news that there have been a number of people living the campground all summer because they could not find housing. Many were students or people with jobs, and some were families with small children.
At its October 3 meeting, council considered a proposal from its housing committee that a limited number of sites be kept open all winter and that the campground office building — which contains a cooking area, laundry, washrooms, and showers — could be temporarily winterized.
Council declined to do this because it was too late in the season to do the necessary work. They said the campground should close on the designated date of October 21.
Chief financial officer Colin McClure said that Nelson Hydro is concerned that the transformer would not take the extra workload, and that to have this dealt with now would be costly and too late.
City manager Kevin Cormack said the city’s zoning bylaw and its community plan does not contemplate permanent housing in the campground and that the city would have to change the zoning bylaw and get opinions from neighbours. He said it is too late this year to undertake this.
Looking to the future, council voted to look into the feasibility of a pilot project that would see the campground, or part of it, remain open in the winter of 2017-18. Council asked management staff to investigate what would be involved, and to research what other municipalities are doing with winter campgrounds.
On September 23 the Star profiled four families and individuals who had been living in the campground all summer, all of whom had jobs or were students, and two of whom had small children.
Contacted by the Star this week, campground attendant Marcello Maddalena said all four have found housing: Jeff Matthews and his family have found a rental, Jean-François Hébert has found a cabin, the Franco family has moved to Edmonton, and Ed Spiteri, who was living in his bus at the campground, has moved to Alberta.
Maddalena said all other long-term campers have also found housing or moved. He said they were motivated by recent cold weather and by the impending closure of the campground.
The city owns the campground and it is run by the Nelson and District Youth Centre with all revenue going to the youth centre.