Town of Canmore to enforce parking ban to mitigate ‘van lifers’ concerns

A "van lifer" sits in his camper van in Canmore in February 2019. Michael King/Global News

The Town of Canmore continues to struggle with a high number of “van lifers” living in parking lots and their vehicles and is taking steps this spring to try to address issues being raised on multiple sides.

First noticed in the summer of 2018, the issue of affordable housing in the small mountain town was highlighted when more and more people were found to be parking, and often overnighting, behind the Save-On-Foods and next to Elevation Place, the town said in a release on its website.

As a temporary solution while the town gathers more information on the reasons behind the surge in the “van life” mentality, a daily parking ban will be enforced each morning.

“The town will prohibit parking for two hours in the morning between 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. to discourage repeated overnight parking,” the town said.

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“All vehicles must have their current provincial registration and be insured, and will need to be in working order to be moved by 7 a.m.”

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The ban will be enforced starting in late May with warnings, fines and vehicle removal if necessary.

While the town will be enforcing the temporary parking ban, it said it will continue to allow the overnight parking.

“Although the bylaw prohibits RV parking between midnight and 8 a.m. on roads or in parking lots, we recognize affordability and availability of housing in Canmore is an issue,” the town said on its website. “In this one location, the Town of Canmore has used discretion in the enforcement of our parking restrictions.”

Watch (Feb. 2019): A small community of Albertans who live out of their vehicles are helping each other stay warm in this frigid cold snap. Michael King reports.

Click to play video: 'Canmore van lifers battle brutal cold'
Canmore van lifers battle brutal cold

The town’s council hopes to better understand the diverse needs of the group of campers before they make a decision on any further steps.

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The town said a seasonal social support and outreach worker, managed by the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) department, will be hired in June to provide the following services:

  • Gather information on the demographics of the community
  • Monitor municipal lots across the town and connect with campers
  • Connect with resort-based municipalities and relay information to the cross-departmental group during weekly meetings

It’s hoped a preliminary update will be presented to council in July.

The seasonal outreach position will end in September. FCSS and bylaw services hope to gather enough information to decide on long-term recommendations by October.

A porta-potty is also being installed on the municipal lot this month. It’s slated to be removed in October.

The town also offered other options for the campers staying within the municipality, including staying at Wapiti Campground, Spring Creek RV Campground and Exshaw Community Association Campsite. The town also said campers could check other provincial campgrounds, but said most have limits on how long campers can stay.

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