Coalmont man defends decision to host campers, despite stay-at-home advisories

“People all figure if you come from the coast there is a virus trail”

A Coalmont area man who opened a small private campground on his property over the Easter long weekend – garnering considerable media attention – told The Spotlight he’s not sure what all the fuss was about.

Ernie Rice said he regrets that people were upset about the campers, but insisted all his visitors behaved responsibly.

“They all knew the situation. They were all spaced out and they were social distancing.”

Rice holds the maintenance contract for the adjacent Granite Creek recreation site, and said these campers stay on his own property each year.

All provincial camping sites remain closed during the COVID 19 crisis.

Related: Law enforcement will patrol shuttered campgrounds in Cascades this weekend

However a group of 14 friends were invited to the Rice property to camp for the weekend.

He said they brought their own food and supplies.

Rice stressed the stay-at-home direction from the province is “not an order, it’s an advisory.”

He added there is no reason to assume his visitors were sick or had been exposed to the virus.

“People all figure if you come from the coast there is a virus trail, like a chem trail that follows you.”

Getting away from the congestion of the city is important for peoples’ mental health, he added.

Police visited the Coalmont property Friday. An officer found approximately nine trailers, according to Princeton RCMP Sgt. Rob Hughes.

“It’s private property….Yes, the people broke the (rule) about non-essential travel. They are practicing social distancing and the information will be forwarded to the provincial health office on Tuesday.”

RCMP don’t have the authority to make arrests or recommend charges under the circumstances, he said.

Hughes explained in some jurisdictions police are able to ticket offenders under municipal or city bylaws. However, there are no such bylaws in Princeton or the RDOS.

He added social media photos of the makeshift camping area did not fairly illustrate the distance between the trailers.

Related: Long weekend vacationers flood to rural Princeton, cause stir for government, RCMP

Many people took to social media to express concern about the situation, amid related reports of a flood of visitors pouring into area holiday communities like Tulameen.

“What the hell are these people doing here?” asked Bob Coyne, Area H director for the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen (RDOS).

“The federal government has asked them to stay at home. The province has asked them to stay at home. What is wrong with these people?”

Coyne reiterated his concerns that out-of-town visitors create stress on the supply chain of Princeton’s only grocery store, put first responders at risk, and could easily overwhelm the town’s small hospital in the event of an outbreak.

Related: Spike of visitors to Princeton-area stressing grocery supply chain and healthcare teams

To report a typo, email:
publisher@similkameenspotlight.com
.



andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

QUIZ: Do you know the truth?

In what has been described as a post-truth era, how much do you know about truth and lies?

EDITORIAL: Managing wildfires

Wildfires have the potential to cause significant damage within our province

Okanagan, Creston cherry and apple farms in need of workers

The worker shortage is due to the COVID-19 restrictions on international travel

‘It’s just my job’: Off-duty Peachland paramedic saves choking girl downtown Penticton

Family vacationing in Penticton assisted by off-duty paramedic, who helps save 13-year-old

Opening night lineup for online Roots & Blues festival released

The first night of the festival on Aug. 14 will be stacked with favourites from previous years

53 new COVID-19 cases, no new deaths cap off week of high infection rates in B.C.

Roughly 1,500 people are self-isolating because they either have COVID-19 or have been exposed to it

Local state of emergency declared near Okanagan home

Slope failure cited as City of Penticton issues notice at home in 600 block of Heather Road

Simon Cowell breaks his back falling from electric bike

Incident happened at his home in California

Therapeutic art for sale at Okanagan show

17th annual Awakening the Spirit Art Show and Sale presented by Vernon Canadian Mental Health Assoc.

VIDEO: Internet famous Yukon-based bhangra dancer explores Vancouver Island

Gurdeep Pandher spreads joy through dance, forms cross-cultural connections amid pandemic

Tech mogul growing North Okanagan’s wine industry

The founder of online dating site Plenty of Fish is developing 900 acres in Vernon

Fentanyl-laced powder being sold as cocaine in Kamloops

Interior Health has released a warning about very strong fentanyl in Kamloops

Unofficial holidays: the weird and wonderful things people celebrate around the world

On any given day of the year, there are several strange, silly or serious holidays to observe

North Okanagan ranch needs support to stay afloat

Founded in 1867, a fundraiser has been launched for the Historic O’Keefe Ranch

Most Read