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

Ladysmith man arrested in Saanich after towed sawmill draws attention

Police located the man thanks to social media and a keen-eyed witness

Killer whales cause a scene

WHALE OF A TALE Art Carlyle captured these images of killer whales… Continue reading

Ladysmith man shocked out of his seat after $50,000 Keno win

Larry Salmond plans to purchase a new RV with his winnings

Green Party pins Nanaimo-North Cowichan riding hopes on Istace

Leader Furstenau in town for the announcement of Chemainus businessman’s candidacy

Ladysmith shows strong support for COVID version of Tour de Rock

Senior donates $8,000 from proceeds of year-long bottle collections

B.C.’s top doctor encourages Halloween costumes to include masks

Dr. Bonnie Henry will soon be releasing guidelines on how to safely trick-or-treat this Halloween

Federal child-care plan could help Canada rebound from COVID-induced economic crisis: prof

A $2 billion investment this year could help parents during second wave of pandemic

Action demanded over death of First Nations youth in Abbotsford group home

Family and Indigenous organizations push for thorough investigation

B.C. nurses report rise in depression, anxiety, exhaustion due to pandemic

A new UBC study looks into how the COVID-19 response has impacted frontline nurses

Parksville pedestrian airlifted to hospital in Vancouver after nighttime collision

Police report man’s injuries were ‘significant’ but not life-threatening

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Horgan frustrated as Transport Canada mandate for BC Ferry riders returns

Transport Canada reinstates rule that bans passengers from lower decks

Shoplifting suspect allegedly spits on worker at store in Nanaimo

Suspect became aggressive when confronted by loss prevention officer at Walmart, say RCMP

Reincarnation, baby! Music-making B.C. couple celebrate ‘miracle’ pregnancy

‘I (said) to Adam, ‘I really think this is your brother reincarnated,’ Elise Estrada says

Most Read