Town of Canmore

Safe Park Pilot Program

Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, many businesses are currently closed and the demand for seasonal workforce has changed. As such, we are postponing the Safe Park Program for this year. Funding that was due to support the Safe Park Program has been reinvested into the Town of Canmore's Community Social Development (CSD) response to Covid-19. The CSD response focuses on eight core areas of community need, including housing and affordability. To learn more about the community supports available, please visit our Community Support Hub

The Safe Overnight Parking program is a pilot program designed to provide individuals - who are employed in the Bow Valley and dwelling in their vehicles - with a safe place to park overnight. 

Participants will be charged $10.00/night for use of an assigned stall and issued a parking permit. Participants will need to renew their permits on the 15th and 30th of each month by providing proof of continued employment and making payment for the next 15 days. Each site will be equipped with a bear-safe garbage bin and provide access to a maintained porta-potty or washroom facility. Sites will be monitored by a security service, and program rules will be enforced.

Program Criteria

To be eligible for the program, participants in the program must:

  • be employed in the Bow Valley​
  • have a valid drivers license​
  • display a valid vehicle registration​
  • show a valid vehicle insurance
  • have an operational vehicle

To stay in the program, participants must:

  • behave respectfully​
  • use the provided washroom facilities​
  • only use the parking stall within the program guidelines (enter after 8:00 p.m and leave before 9:00 a.m.)​
  • respect quiet hours of 11:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m.
  • keep pets on a leash and picking up/disposing of pet waste 
  • dispose of waste in the provided bear-safe bins ​
  • keep equipment and supplies contained within their vehicle​
  • refrain from attracting, feeding, or disturbing wildlife​
  • refrain from criminal behavior​
  • park outside of the town centre between 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Data collection will continue to be a key component of the Safe Park program to determine if the program is meeting the intended outcome of providing safe, affordable, and short term accommodation for Bow Valley employees that supports seasonal staffing needs and minimizes community concern regarding vehicle dwellers. Data will include, but is not limited to, number of participants, number of people on a waitlist, number of and nature of people turned away for not meeting the eligibility criteria, employment metrics, number of tickets for overnight parking violations, community feedback, and participant satisfaction.

For more information about this pilot program, contact: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Background

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 Sept. 17 and Oct. 1 and approved the implementation of an overnight parking program pilot on Feb. 4, 2020.  The full reports can be found here.  

Next Steps

  1. Find additional community partners to provide parking areas (contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) if you are interested in participating)
  2. On March 3, 2020, Council approved a camping bylaw and a traffic and road-use bylaw to prohibit overnight camping everywhere in Canmore outside of designated areas such as campgrounds and Safe Park Program. Click here for the agenda package for more information
  3. Finalize program details

Frequently Asked Questions

Can anyone come and camp in their vehicle or RV in Canmore?
No. Camping outside of campgrounds between the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. is prohibited under municipal bylaws. 
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 may include the issuance of a $287 fine.

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 in 2019.
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. 
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