Local climbing group members have been charged with illegal camping near Crest Creek Crags in Strathcona Provincial Park after negotiations with BC Parks over the signing of volunteer agreements broke down last year.

Climbers in court over illegal camping in Strathcona Park

Rally in support of Heathens Climbing Club members planned for outside Campbell River courthouse

Supporters of members of the Heathens Climbing Club members charged with illegal camping in Strathcona Provincial Park last August plan to hold a demonstration outside of the Campbell River courthouse April 18.

The dispute is over the trail to Crest Crags, a climbing area in Strathcona Park, near Gold River. The area has been developed by the Heathens Climbing Club – with the permission of BC Parks – over more than 25 years and is doing it “with a deep sense of care and respect,” a Friends of Strathcona Park (FOSP) press release says.

Outdoor writer Andrew Findlay said in an article in Adventurous Magazine, 2005, “besides the exquisite quality of the rock and lack of crowds, one of the features that sets Crest Creek apart from most other rock climbing areas, is the fact that someone obviously cares about the place.”

According to the Heathens’ Chris Barner, on Jan. 26, 2016, the Parks branch issued a stop work order to the Heathens Club regarding their maintenance projects at Crest Creek. The club has officially maintained the trail network at the crags since 1993, but now the ministry is demanding that club volunteers enter a new agreement before work can continue. The club refuses to sign the new agreement proposed for multiple reasons.

The most recent “volunteer agreement,” a standard form for all volunteer groups to sign, had a number of clauses that caused Heathen members concern.

Barner tried to negotiate, with BC Parks , but it was “their way or the highway,” he said, and when some Heathen members were camped near the Crags last August, they were charged with illegal camping, fined and evicted.

Their charges, which could result in fines totaling of about $3,000, come before the provincial court in Campbell River on April 18 where the demonstration of support will occur.

The club has several outstanding grievances that remain from their previous (1995) agreement with the ministry which the club says would need to be resolved before any new proposal could be considered.

Strathcona Park