Every morning, Teresa Petrini follows the same routine.
She wakes up, gets ready, hops in her car and makes the commute from her home in Colwood, driving through Esquimalt Lagoon and onto the highway to get to her office in downtown Victoria. But within the last few months, Petrini’s noticed a troubling trend.
Almost every day she sees a handful of recreational vehicles parked at Esquimalt Lagoon that have clearly been there overnight – despite signs saying overnight parking is not permitted between 1 and 6 a.m.
“It’s just gotten out of control. You can tell they’ve been there overnight because of course the weather has changed so there’s condensation on the windows, which means they’ve been sitting there for several hours already,” said Petrini, adding she usually sees about five to six vehicles, and one morning recently she counted as many as nine.
“I just don’t think this is the best place for these people to be parking. It’s a public beach. It’s not meant for camping.”
Petrini, who takes her kids and dogs to play at the beach, said she’s seen people urinating outside their RVs and is concerned for the environment around the lagoon, which is a migratory bird sanctuary.
Petrini isn’t actually sure why there are so many campers there, but believes it has become worse since Walmart closed its parking lot on Langford Parkway to overnight campers.
While she acknowledged there is a housing crisis in the Capital Region that may force some to sleep in RVs, she said there is a time and a place for such activities.
Having worked a few blocks away from the infamous Tent City on the lawns of Victoria’s courthouse, Petrini was all too familiar with the problems that arose, including thefts and things such as condoms, empty wine bottles and needles found on neighbours’ properties, and is concerned a similar problem may happen in Colwood if nothing is done to prevent people from parking their RVs overnight.
“I would hate for the same thing to happen in our community,” Petrini said, noting she would prefer to see the RVs use one of the many campsites available in the region. “They need to be pointed in the direction or a place where they can park. I just don’t think our waterfront is that place.”
Colwood Mayor Carol Hamilton said the City is aware of the issue and already has plans to improve signage in the area, specifically posting larger signs near the public washrooms and on garbage bins. In the past, bylaw officers have informed parked RVs that overnight camping is not permitted and they have complied.
“If it presents as a problem, then we’re going to have to address it,” she said. “It’s a lovely place and the last thing we want is for it to become used in a way that’s detrimental overall to the community.”
The fine for overnight camping is $50. So far this summer, bylaw officers have not issued any tickets for this particular infraction.