CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. – The City of Campbell River is taking steps to make Spirit Square more visitor-friendly.
On Monday, council members unanimously approved a staff recommendation to limit the time frame for Spirit Square event tents to be up, from May 22 to Sept. 21.
Council also approved a recommendation to increase RCMP patrols as resources permit; and that the City of Campbell River Facility Code of Conduct is enforced for infractions that occur in Spirit Square.
A last piece was added to the motion, which read: “that council approves additional expenditures from council contingency, to erect Spirit Square tents for each individual event, already programmed between Sept. 24 to Oct. 31.”
In a report to council, staff noted that for the past nine years, Spirit Square events have become a mainstay in the community.
“The events have been very successful in animating the downtown core, and providing a variety of entertainment options, that continue to draw large audiences,” the report read.
“City council has witnessed the success of these events and provided additional funding to ensure their continuation.”
However, the report noted that “over the past several years, vagrancy in the downtown core has become an increasing concern.”
According to the report, council supported the establishment of the Safer Downtown office, the move of the bylaw department to that office, and the formation of the Safer Downtown Working Group, all with the goal of improving the ability to deal with unwanted behaviours in the downtown core.
But the report said problems within and around the Spirit Square area “continue to be of concern” including public drunkenness, open liquor, causing a disturbance, assault, and camping.
The city’s director of planning Peter Wipper said the tents are being used as shelter for the city’s homeless population in inclement weather.
“They provide an area that’s out of the elements where people can sit, and that’s fine, but when there’s illicit activities going on with this (homeless) population, then it draws resources from both the RCMP and bylaw enforcement.”
Wipper said the city was looking for a way for the tents to support summer events “but also be managed in a way that it doesn’t exacerbate the issue with this population in the downtown core.”