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. Staff will monitor emerging housing needs and the changing resources within the community. If the current situation stabilizes, we will work to launch the Safe Park Program, or another similar program, to support our seasonal workforce this year. 

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. The program will begin May 4 and end Oct. 2, 2020, and utilize 50 parking stalls at night. The intent is to have parking stalls evenly provided by community partners and the Town of Canmore, with each providing 25 stalls, with approximately five parking stalls in each location.

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.

Consideration was given to offering a subsidized camping program with 10 sites at Wapiti Campground with participants subject to the same eligibility criteria. This component of the program is pending negotiation with the Province of Alberta to continue with the municipal campground in 2020. Updates will be provided once more information is available.

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. Until the pilot program begins, 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.
  2. 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)
  3.  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
  4. Finalize program details

Frequently Asked Questions

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 On March 3, 2020, Council 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
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.
Why is parking being temporarily prohibited between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. on the municipal lot between Elevation Place and Save-On-Foods?
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.
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.
These restricted hours balance short-term parking needs, the operational capacity of RCMP and Bylaw services, and the overnight needs of those who reside in their vehicle.  
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 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, then 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. 
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