Town of Canmore

Overnight Camping on Municipal Lots

In the summer of 2018, the Town of Canmore noticed that the number of individuals who live or camp in their vehicles increased significantly. Most apparent were the overnight parked vehicles behind Save-On-Foods and beside Elevation Place.  The people who reside on this land do so for many, and sometimes complex, reasons. In Canmore, the number of individuals who reside in their vehicles due to choice rather than necessity is unclear. 

A seasonal outreach worker was hired in the spring of 2019 to work with individuals camping in the area to provide social support, and gather information to help us understand their needs. Council heard the results of the data collected through the summer over two council meetings on September 17 & October 1 - to read the full reports click here. Council then directed administration "to create a seasonal, safe, overnight parking program for Council’s approval that utilizes community partnerships and has clear criteria for participation".

Next Steps

  1. Administration will work on guidelines for the creation of an overnight parking program for council's approval. The program will be brought to council for approval in Q1 2020.
  2. The parking restrictions in place in the gravel panhandle parking lot behind Elevation Place between 7 a.m. - 9 a.m. will remain in place. All vehicles must have their current provincial registration and be insured, and will need to be in working order to be moved by 7 a.m.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to vehicles camping on private lots?
Private property owners need to request the owners of vehicles to leave their property as this is trespassing. If the owners of the vehicles camping on private property don’t leave, the property owner needs to contact the RCMP and request their assistance. Typically a warning will be issued first and if there is no compliance further steps which may include the issuance of a $287 fine may occur.
Can anyone come and camp in their vehicle or RV in Canmore?
No. RVs are not allowed to park between midnight and 8 a.m. on roads or in parking lots. We will be working with the people who are currently using the area between Save-On-Foods and Elevation Place to understand their needs and help them find alternatives. 
Why is parking being temporarily prohibited between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on the municipal lot?
This temporary parking prohibition recognizes Canmore’s affordability challenges while maintaining parking stalls for their original intended purpose of visitor parking during the day. Canmore has limited available day-time, short-term parking.
Although the restrictions are for only two hours, the intention is to work with the campers to find an alternative day-time location. These restricted hours balances short-term parking needs, the operational capacity of RCMP and Bylaw services, and the overnight needs of those who reside in their vehicle.
Are you “evicting” people from the lot?
No parking is allowed between 7 a.m. - 9 a.m., but vehicles will be temporarily allowed overnight in this location to provide a space for individuals to rest during the night while maintaining the town’s limited short-term parking areas. Vehicle owners must still abide by provincial legislation, however, and any vehicles that are inoperable, unregistered, or uninsured must be removed from the lot.  
Where do people go between the hours of 7 a.m. - 9 a.m.?
More information is needed on who is staying in the lot and their needs. Vacationers and short-term campers should continue on with their day.  Other resources may be needed for longer-term residents. The town will keep a close eye on impact of these parking restrictions and work to find appropriate alternatives for longer-term residents.  The town is currently looking into an overnight parking program. Details on the program will be brought to council for approval in early 2020. 
Why fund an outreach worker? 
It is clear that more information is needed. The purpose of the outreach worker is to collect demographic information, including: subjective experiences of campers (their unique situations and background), collection of relevant statistics (number of vehicles, number of unique vehicles), evaluating impact of municipal decision (monitoring other lots), and amalgamating municipal data (Bylaw and RCMP statistics).  In addition, the outreach worker (though Family and Community Support Services), will help connect individuals to appropriate community services as needed. 
Where else can these campers go?
Wapiti Campground is located on the west end of Canmore along Bow Valley Trail and sites are available from May 1 to October 14 on a first come, first served basis. Wapiti campground is operated by a contractor on land leased by the Town of Canmore from the Province of Alberta, and the Province may choose to reallocate the land. It is anticipated that the Province will extend the lease for the campsite to the end of 2021; however, this extension cannot be confirmed yet.
Spring Creek RV Campground is a privately owned RV Park within the Town of Canmore, centrally located east of downtown. Long-term rentals are available. In summer, long-term campers must pay upfront for their entire stay. Some local businesses will rent a site for seasonal workers. Limited winter sites are available.
Exshaw Community Association Campsite is a volunteer-run, community campground within the municipality of Exshaw. The campground is operated as a first come-first served, campground.
There are also numerous provincial campgrounds nearby, but most can only be booked 90 days in advance and for no longer than 14 days. 
Why are there so many vehicles camping illegally? 
In the summer of 2018, the number of individuals who live or camp in their vehicles behind Save-On-Foods and Elevation Place increased significantly.  Although the bylaw prohibits RV parking between midnight and 8 a.m. on roads or in parking lots, we recognize affordability and availability of housing in Canmore is an issue. In this one location, the Town of Canmore has used discretion in the enforcement of our parking restrictions. To address the real and perceived concerns for the safety of individuals living in their vehicles (both short-term and long-term) and for the larger Canmore community, regular patrols of the area are conducted, and a porta-potty was installed last summer.
Why doesn't the Town of Canmore just enforce the NO OVERNIGHT PARKING regulations to prevent people from camping in parking lots?
There are individuals who have significant affordability challenges within our community. If we simply enforce, without understanding the needs, than we may be putting a vulnerable individual at risk and we lose an opportunity to understand the needs of this group.
Full enforcement now may make it more difficult for the Town of Canmore to monitor and understand the associated demographics of the vehicular-housed community and any related underlying issues. In the short-term, this option could lead to greater enforcement issues throughout a larger area of the community as campers find alternative locations such as residential streets.
Why not just pay for a campsite for individuals who are in need?
People are complex and their needs diverse. Although a campsite may be an appropriate solution for some, it is not an appropriate solution for all. In the past, the municipality did support seasonal workers with a campsite at Wapiti Campground, but unfortunately the right resources were not put in place and the site was unsuccessful. The town is working on guidelines and the creation of an overnight parking program for council's approval in early 2020. 
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