Roaring ATVs, loose dogs and drunken partygoers at Yukon campgrounds may soon be little more than memories.
On October 31, Environment Yukon announced proposed new regulations, which will undergo a 60-day public review process.
“Our campground use is increasing,” said Eric Val, the parks director.
“Since the officer program has been put in place, campgrounds have become, yet again, more family-orientated places.
“But there are times when we have to deal with major issues.”
Included in the proposal is a general prohibition of ATVs in campgrounds.
“We need to be precise about this: the prohibition is in campgrounds. We’re not talking about in the larger park areas,” said Val.
“In the interest of public safety, the use of ATVs in campgrounds has become a growing problem — especially the underage use of ATVs.”
Pets will have to be kept on a leash, because of complaints from dogs wandering around campsites unattended.
Having loaded weapons and hanging game in campgrounds will also be strictly prohibited.
“Another big issue is the management of the consumption of firewood,” said Val.
“We’ve been spending $100,000 a year providing firewood and the price is still rising.”
Campers will not be allowed to have more than four cubic feet of firewood at one time.
“Does that mean our officers are going to go in there with a measuring tape and, if you have five cubic feet, they’re going to be issued a ticket? No,” said Val.
“But if you’ve got half a cord of firewood stacked between two trees and refuse to take it back to the bin….
“At least we have the ability to exercise some authority based on the strengths of these regulations that are being proposed.”
Park officers would also be able to put out 72-hour bans on liquor, said Val.
“We know what weekends we’re going to have problems with and at what locations.”
Parks has already enforced liquor bans during the Dawson and Alsek music festivals with positive results.
“The issue is that we need to control the drinking to control the nuisance behavior and the extensive partying,” he said.
“The public reaction that we have had has been, ‘Thank you, it provides a place where we can go and have a family-oriented weekend.’”
It’s been 23 years since the regulations have been updated.
In 2001, as the result of new legislation and land claims agreements, there was a need to update and revise these regulations.
“We now have a permanent program which we received permanent funding for in April,” said Val.
“We have seasonal permanent staffing of a park supervisor and three permanent park officers with the resources to hire auxiliary on-call officers for those particularly busy long weekends.”
But with 50 campgrounds and recreation sites across the territory, officers can’t be everywhere at once. They will rely on help from the public to enforce the new regulations.
Three areas — Herschel Island and the Fishing Branch Ecological and Wilderness Preserves — will have their own additional regulations.
The public information package is available on Environment Yukon’s website and the department’s offices.
The deadline for written comments on the proposed new regulations is January 18, 2008.