Kennedy Lake is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, but more resources are needed to make sure those visiting the area are respecting their surroundings. (Westerly file photo)

Kennedy Lake is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, but more resources are needed to make sure those visiting the area are respecting their surroundings. (Westerly file photo)

Tofino-area First Nation considering closing doors to visitors again

Swamped with tourists, scared of COVID-19, Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation says more support needed

COVID-19 cases are on the rise throughout B.C.

Tourists are continuing to pour into the Tofino area at a significantly higher clip than expected.

And the resident Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation is concerned enough that it is ready to close access to the Tribal Parks program in its territory unless more West Coast businesses step up with the resources needed to manage the the threat those combined factors pose.

“If a sustainable solution cannot be achieved by engaging widespread participation in the Tribal Park Allies certification standard, then it will not be possible for the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to continue welcoming guests into our Tribal Parks,” reads a statement released by the TFN, whose traditional territories include Tofino, Clayoquot Sound, and areas within the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.

RELATED: Disgruntled Tofino residents say visitors turning town into a free-for-all

RELATED: Ucluelet RCMP increase patrol at Kennedy watershed

“The safety of our community members cannot continue to be compromised by a tourism economy which does not contribute to crucial community services…Our Nation opened our Tribal Parks to support an economic recovery for our Tribal Parks Allies and for local residents dependent on the tourism economy,” the statement reads.

The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation ended a COVID-19-related territory in June while the neighbouring Ahousaht and Hesquiaht nations decided to remain closed. TFN Tribal Administrator Saya Masso told the VI Free Daily that the volume of tourists hammering the West Coast since has taken the region by surprise. Closing Tribal Parks has been discussed, but is not the desired outcome.

The Tribal Park Allies program asked for a voluntary one per cent ‘user fee’ that participating businesses ask from customers. The money goes towards mitigating the social and environmental impacts of tourism.

“We expect that tourists that are coming here to see a beautiful area would be willing to pay an extra penny on their dollar,” Masso said, reiterating that the money does not come from the business operator, but is a voluntary one percent ‘user fee’ paid for by customers.

“We’re not trying to hurt the bottom line of businesses…We’re trying to collaborate with the tourists that value coming to a clean and well-serviced area.”

The program is currently helping to fund patrols by Tribal Park Guardians as well as checkpoints set up to prevent COVID-19 from spreading into vulnerable First Nation communities.

Masso said stronger participation in the program could lead to additional funding for resources like sewage treatment and healthcare services.

So far, roughly 37 businesses have signed up for the program, but a call out by the Nation in July did not yield the buy-in that was hoped for.

“We know it’s busy, but there is a disappointment…It does beg the question, would more businesses have signed on if we had remained closed?” Masso said.

“All the leaders regionally talk about building back better and talk about building back to overcome crises such as these and having a more resilient health care system et cetera and this should have been part of reopening…It shouldn’t have just been words, it should have been action. We’d been closed for four months when we should have been eyes open to how to build back better and we see this tool as one of the tools needed to build back better.”

RELATED: Tourism Tofino says visitors generate $240 million annually

Masso added that the disrespect being shown by some visitors to the region is “saddening and disappointing” and he noted the impacts of those irresponsible behaviours underline the need for more robust stewardship and guardianship.

“It just highlights that we’re under-resourced…We need a regular presence for education and outreach in our backroads and on our beaches,” he said. “As Canadians, you would hope that if you found a quiet place in the forest, you would leave it as you found it and that’s not the case. We’re finding propane tanks and tarps and abandoned lawn chairs and tents that are broken after a weekend and left amongst all the litter and cans and bottles and garbage, it’s just a tremendous amount of refuse.”

Masso said participants in the program would help contribute to a “healthy and beautiful Clayoquot Sound,” by empowering Tribal Park Guardians with more resources.

“We open our homeland to the millions of tourists a year and to do that we need these tools to be able to continue to be open safely,” he said. “We think that businesses would understand that and that we’re symbiotically linked.”

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

We’re excited to welcome our newest members of the Tribal Parks Alliance! Today we signed a protocol agreement with…

Posted by Tribal Parks Allies on Tuesday, September 1, 2020



andrew.bailey@westerlynews.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

CoronavirusFirst NationsTofino,Tourism

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

Just Posted

Revelstoke Search and Rescue is one of the busiest teams in B.C. (Submitted)
Busy day for Revelstoke SAR with 3 rescue calls on Boulder Mountain

The organisation is reminding people to dail it back and play safe

Revelstoke competing last year in Mont St Anne, Quebec. (Submitted)
Revelstoke Nordic skiers head to Finland for World Championships

It’s the first race of the season for the Canadian athletes

Kootenay-Columbia MP Rob Morrison speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons. File photo.
MP Morrison calls Keystone XL permit cancellation ‘devastating news’

Kootenay-Columbia MP reacts to the Conservative Party’s removal of a controversial Ontario MP

Interior Health reported 91 new COVID-19 cases in the region Jan. 20, 2021 and three additional deaths. (Jennifer Smith - Morning Star)
95 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health, two deaths

Another member of Vernon’s Noric House has passed

North-West Mounted Police barracks at the top of Douglas Street hill, 1885. The man seated at the front was (Colonel Sam Steele. Revelstoke Museum and Archives photo 856)
Glimpses of Revelstoke’s past for Jan. 21

130 years ago: Kootenay Star, Jan. 24, 1891 An accident occurred at… Continue reading

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Big White Village on Dec. 16. (Big White photo)
11 more COVID-19 cases linked to Big White cluster

Interior Health provided an update on the cluster on Friday

Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops. (Dave Eagles/Kamloops This Week file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital surgical unit

Despite 6 South being a surgical unit, RIH said surgeries are continuing at the hospital

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘It’s incredibly upsetting’: Kelowna health care worker demands WestJet ticket refund

Kelowna woman has been waiting almost a year for a refund on her Kelowna to Edmonton flight

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

After a Vernon resident tried to domesticate a pair of gopher snakes, BC Conservation Service reminded that it is against the law to keep wild animals in one’s possession. (Yuval Levy/Unsplash)
Wild gopher snakes aren’t pets: Vernon conservation officer

After resident kept two gopher snakes in his home, conservation reminds it’s illegal to domesticate wildlife

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Most Read