Leave No Trace in Little America

It would appear there’s not enough of camping sites in the area or there’s not enough free ones

Interesting news from BC Hydro and TimberWest today regarding Little America.

This isn’t the first time that the informal campground has been in the news. A few years back I did a story on it because of the mess left behind by campers – RV’ers, actually. They had built wooden patios and kitchen shelving and other sundry items to make “their” little piece of shoreline comfortable.

And then left it behind presumably to be re-used when they came back the next year.

For those not familiar with Little America. It’s the area along the shore of the Upper Campbell reservoir behind the Strathcona Dam. Many people move their RVs in there in the spring and stay throughout the summer free. They’re essentially squatters on TimberWest and BC Hydro land.

As I understand it, the term Little America was applied because it used to be Americans who would set up camp there and use the area as a base for their fishing expeditions. I don’t know if it’s still predominantly Americans or if it even ever was but that’s how it got the name.

This is a bit of a tradition in this region. Move your RV into an area around a lake or on the ocean and spend the summer there fishing, barbecuing, drinking beer. Your own piece of recreational property. Except you don’t own it. These “campgrounds” have no facilities. No outhouses, no garbage collection.

There are tons of campsites in this area, most of them B.C. Forest Recreation Sites and provincial park campgrounds but it would appear there’s not enough of them or there’s not enough free ones.

This building of camp facilities is a common thing around here. I remember when Main Lake Provincial Park on Quadra Island was formally created back in the Nineties, I think it was. I went on an expedition with BC Parks personnel who were inspecting their new property that came about as a result of land swaps and community effort. One of the first job for Parks was removing all the infrastructure people had built at popular, informal camping sites.

In another area, a few summers ago, I went camping on Amour Lake, one of the links in the Sayward Forest Canoe Route. Now, this was in Crown forest and not a park. We found a great campsite on a small island in the lake and sure enough, there were shelves nailed into trees to create a camp kitchen.

I guess not everybody has been trained in Leave No Trace camping.

Thankfully the Comox Valley Paddlers had built “thunderboxes” to serve as outhouses. But not all places where people camp in the region have even those minimal “services.”

Now, not all people are intentionally slobs in nature and many of these sites have been used for decades. It’s just that modifying your campsite to make things more comfortable for you is passe´ in the outdoors these days.

Leave No Trace is a wilderness ethic that we should all subscribe to. But the campers at Little America and Eagle Point are definitely not.

This has an impact on our environment. But, really, this is about our woods and our lakeshores that we love so much and enjoy. If they’re polluted, trashed and crowded with people building kitchens and patios, then it’s unsightly and disgusting for those seeking at least the illusion of untouched wilderness.

Formal campsites are created to protect natural areas from overuse. Part of the Leave No Trace ethic is to camp on surfaces that won’t be impacted, like rocks and gravel.

There’s lots of places to camp for free that have outhouses and garbage cans around here. Plus if you want an away-from-it-all experience, you can do it. You can camp in the backcountry, nobody says you can’t.

Just travel light and Leave No Trace.