By Steve Hubrecht
[email protected]

A new proposal aims to create a 165-site campground just outside Wilmer.

The Regional District of East Kootenay (RDEK) has been seeking comments from nearby municipalities, provincial agencies and local residents on the proposal, which would be a mix of RV sites, yurts, prospector tents (or similar structures) and cottages. 

As outlined in a referral letter sent by the RDEK to the district of Invermere, exactly how many sites will be devoted to each type of use is yet to be determined, and market demand will play a role, but as of right now, the owners are considering roughly 110 RV sites and about 55 yurt/tent/cottage sites. The owners have committed that no more than 20 per cent of the total campsites will be cottages.

The campsites would be “arranged in clusters on topographical benches to maximize views overlooking the wetlands and minimize visibility from the main road,” reads the letter. All the sites are set back at least 50 metres from the wetlands (and are at least 15 metres above them in elevation). The property is not within the boundaries of the Columbia River Wildlife Management Area, and the owners have committed that there will be absolutely no access to the wetlands from the campground. They plan to build viewing platforms so that campground visitors can enjoy looking over the wetlands from a distance.

There would be two entrances to the campground off of Westside Road, a main one and a secondary one. Each cluster of campsites would have centralized parking. Although most of the campsites will be for nightly occupancy, some limited seasonal rental may be considered for part of the campground. “If this happens, construction of add-on decks, sheds, roof structures or similar, will not be permitted. Park models will also not be permitted,” read the RDEK letter.

ATVs, golf carts and motorcycles will be prohibited at the campground as will wood campfires. “Servicing will be via well water to common facilities. Water will not be provided to every campsite, however each yurt and cottage will have private bathroom facilities and the cottages will also have a kitchenette,” read the letter. “Sewer service will be provided for all common areas, tents, yurts and cottages. The RV sites will not be serviced.”

As part of their application, the owners included market analysis showing that demand for camping is expected to grow over the coming years.

Invermere council discussed the proposal, spurred by the referral letter sent to the district by the RDEK, during its Tuesday, Feb. 23 meeting. 

Councillor Gerry Taft noted that Invermere has been criticized in the past for not having a sani-dump facility at which RV and camper users can dispose of waste. “The biggest things that comes to my mind with this kind of proposal is that with an influx of campers and people bringing RVs, how important having some kind of proper year-round sani-dump facility somewhere in the region is going to be,” said Taft, adding there are some such facilities in campgrounds elsewhere in the valley, but to his knowledge, all of them are seasonal rather than year-round.

“The sani-dump is the topic we should be highlighting. That potentially this development, if they go ahead with this many sites, should be contributing some money toward the overall cost of some sort of sani-dump facility,” emphasized Taft.

Invermere mayor Al Miller concurred, noting that it would be great if Invermere could create some kind of sani-dumping facility but “our options are limited.”

Kayja Becker said attention should be payed to the extra traffic the campground could bring, and to any potential environmental impacts because the campground “looks quite close to the wetlands” but tempered these comments by adding that if the relevant ministries (such as the provincial Ministry of Environment and Climate Change and the provincial Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations) have no objections, then she is okay with the plan.

Miller noted those agencies would be consulted with referral letters by the RDEK and would be able to raise any concerns they have.

Taft mentioned that it’s worth pointing out to the public that Invermere does not get the final say on the campground proposal, the RDEK does, and Invermere is merely being asked to provide comments as part of the referral process. “We’re not the decision makers on this,” he said.

Invermere chief administrative officer Andrew Young told council he would bundle their comments on the campground into a letter and send it to the RDEK.