Poor soil quality at the Chemainus River Campgrounds site is evident in this Madrone Environmental Services map. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Poor soil quality at the Chemainus River Campgrounds site is evident in this Madrone Environmental Services map. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Island campground spared from closure while owners’ case reviewed

Firm deadline to cease operations removed while parties work on ALR exclusion

The Oct. 1 deadline has come and gone and the Chemainus River Campground is still in operation.

The campground is located on Agricultural Land Reserve property on the Trans-Canada Highway and owners Jeri and John Wyatt were ordered to cease business as a campground by that date by the Agricultural Land Commission or face a stiff penalty.

The Wyatts have received a reprieve of sorts, although nothing confirmed in writing yet, while the Municipality of North Cowichan, Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley and jurisdictions within the provincial government work behind the scenes to see if the property can be excluded from the ALR to continue as a campground rather than having to revert back to agricultural status that has been deemed impractical for so many reasons.

While the Wyatts are relieved they didn’t have to shut the campground down and basically lose everything they had invested in the site, they won’t be breathing easier until a more definitive directive is received.

“It’s basically in North Cowichan’s hands,” said John Wyatt. “They’re putting in an application for us.

“All I know they’ve given us a reprieve for the time being. Everybody can kind of take a breather and hopefully with North Cowichan being firmly behind us they’ll get something through.

“We’re good. We’re not going to be adding or anything like that. We’re going to continue as normal for the time being.”

The Wyatts had originally made an application to expand the number of campsites, but when the ALC caught wind of it, the deadline was imposed to revert the ALR land back to agricultural use.

The topic came up at the recent Union of B.C. Municipalities convention in Vancouver. North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring said Minister of Agriculture Lana Popham and even Premier John Horgan, a friend going back many years, are aware of the situation and promising another look.

Along with Routley, “we met with the minister at UBCM,” said Siebring.

“The Province has committed to continuing dialogue with the Wyatts.”

An exclusion application was filed for the land by the Municipality.

“It’s gone right up to the top echelons,” said Siebring.

“I’m pretty confident the Wyatts aren’t going to get shut down anytime soon.”

Former MLA Bill Routley also went to bat for the Wyatts before the deadline to bring the matter to the attention of North Cowichan as a delegation at a council meeting.

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