Big changes lie ahead for Radley Park before the facility opens again in spring, including more campsites, an online booking system and a limit on the number of days a site may be booked.
Already, no entry signs posted along the perimeter and at the gate to the park appeared last week, marking the beginning of a three-phase project to provide at least 55 new campsites.
District of Kitimat leisure services director Martin Gould said the District budgeted $80,000 for the current work in the 2019 budget cycle.
Gould is confident council will consider and approve the additional budget required in the 2020 budget cycle, including $525,000 for Phase 1 (11 additional campsites) and nearly $1.6 million for Phase 2 (14 campsites).
He said the budget requirements for the 30 units in Phase 3 are not known yet – the work currently being conducted includes clearing for all three phases.
“We’re focussing now on completing at least 24 campsites as part of Phase 1 and 2. That’s the goal but of course that’s dependent on the weather,” said Gould.
“The initial work has already begun. We have cleared trees and roughed in the roadway and space for the new campsites. The next steps will be to completely survey the area, determine final site lines for roadways and campsites, prepare for power and water line expansions, and determine the amount of gravel/fill that must be brought in to the new areas.”
The new campsites will also be larger to accommodate the larger recreational vehicles (RVs).
In the spring of 2020 and the fall of 2020 Gould said the new campsites will be opened as they are completed with fire pits, shelters, power hookups and picnic tables.
“Additional items such as roadway lighting, pathways and wood bins will also be added,” said Gould.
He said the bulk of the work will be carried out by District of Kitimat employees, with some work most likely to be carried out by contractors.
While major construction work is underway certain sections of the park will be closed to the public. The public will be notified of these closures through appropriate signage.
With regards to the repair of the riverbank along the front of Radley Park, Gould said the rip-rapping of the bank will most likely start by March 2020 as soon as permits have been secured and the tenders for the work have been awarded.
Another major improvement for Radley Park will be the introduction of an online booking system, which will avoid the problem of tourists travelling all the way to Kitimat only to discover that Radley Park is fully booked.
“The system isn’t currently online yet – we are exploring software options and it is anticipated that the program will be running by the end of March 2020,” said Gould.
Another change that will no doubt be welcomed by especially local recreational users is the enforcement of a 14-day booking limit, which will also be included in the online booking system.
“The maximum 14-day booking will be used to control the issues around persons coming to the campground and booking a spot for the entire camping season. This will be used as a preventative measure to help to ensure that there are campsites available for both local residents and those visiting our community during the camping season,” said Gould.
While the bylaw was passed in 1990 preventing campers from staying longer than 14 days in a municipal campground, it hasn’t been enforced.
“This will also open up sites for local residents and visitors, especially during this time of expansion for Kitimat. During the Rio Tinto Aluminum Smelter retrofit project, staff noted that contractors were camping in both Radley Park and Hirsch Creek Park for the entire camping season.
“This left few if any sites available for local residents and visitors to the community.
He said following the passing of the 2018 bylaw preventing camping on the riverbank, it is felt that there would be an increased demand for campsites in the next number of years.
In the summer of 2019 alone Gould said staff had reported a nearly 20 per cent increase in campsite use.
To make it even more equitable for visitors, and locals who want to pop down to the park for the weekend, the DoK will also make 25 per cent of the total number of campsites at Radley Park non-reservable.
“The 25 per cent reserved for drop-ins will also be subject to the 14-day maximum,” added Gould.
The recommendations for a change to the existing Radley Park bylaw came from meetings of the DoK’s Leisure Services Advisory Commission. The bylaw will also apply to Hirsch Creek park.
Starting in 2012 and ending in 2014, both Radley Park and Hirsch Creek Park experienced significant numbers or campers staying for extended periods during the camping season.
This extended camping was likely directly related to contractors staying in the parks during the retrofit of the Rio Tinto Aluminium Smelter and various community projects associated with this work.