Ruminating over Rum (the Island)

Discussion in 'General Paddling Discussions' started by Dan_Millsip, Sep 4, 2013.

  1. explorer777

    explorer777 Paddler

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    I only mentioned it again because that is how your recent post came across again. I am not trying to offend you Dan and my comments are not in criticism - I have supported some of your points and in other cases I have simply offered my perspectives in trying to see both sides of the situation and explaining how some positions can come across to others. And yes I have camped on Rum Island so yes I am familiar with it and yes I know it is one of the smaller camping areas in the Gulf Islands compared to larger camping areas like Sidney, Portland, etc and I do recognize that 9 tents isn't an ideal situation at that particular site but I think we can all recognize that sometimes backcountry camping situations are not ideal.

    It is a compelling topic, and there have been many good discussion points in the thread, because this type of scenario is a fairly common occurrence - especially in areas like the Gulf Islands or Broken Islands where there is high usage. I have extensive backcountry camping experience and there have been many times when I have found an ideal quiet campsite and then later a group rolls in, which can be a little deflating but similar to someone's earlier post - it happens. That is when I think it comes back to the repeated points around consideration, empathy and good communication. I hope you are able to have a coffee with the guide, as I think it would be good to share perspectives.
     
  2. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Official?
    How did Parks Canada arrive at the number of tent platforms they put there?

    Was there any consultation with the kayaking (and other boat camping) community?

    And is the number of tent platforms to be taken as the 'occupancy level' for the entire island?

    It seems to me that Parks Canada is doing their best to discourage use of the Gulf Islands Park.

    This whole 'incident' would never have happened if there was a second camping area available on Rum. (On the N side, for instance...hang a left at the privy, when heading toward the tent platforms.)
     
  3. kayakwriter

    kayakwriter Paddler

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    You mean you didn't receive your ballot? That's what happens when you miss a meeting :)

    Yeah, for better or worse (often worse), I believe the number of platforms is to be taken as the official carrying capacity, lest we want Parks Canada SWAT teams rappelling out of choppers to issue tickets:)

    I'm well aware of the unofficial (and arguably nicer) sites on Rum's "upper levels." When private paddlers use those or other overflow sites, it can be argued that it's out of necessity or as a principled protest against the caprices of our self-appointed political masters. When paid guides do so (especially with knowledge aforethought that they're going to exceed the available platforms), that can look like it's just about the money.
     
  4. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    As I'm curious about the 'Official Number of Campsites' issue, I just contacted Parks Canada (Sidney) and spoke with Francine Burnett, Promotions Officer.

    She suggested that I email the Park Superintendent, Marcia Morash, and also one of the managers, Laurie Peerenboom with my questions, and I have done that.
    I'll post the answers here when I receive them, if appropriate.

    FYI, the general contact info for the Gulf Islands National Park is:
    Gulf Islands National Park Reserve of Canada
    2220 Harbour Road
    Sidney, BC Canada V8L 2P6
    Phone: 250-654-4000
    Fax: 250-654-4014
    Toll Free (in North America only):1-866-944-1744
    Email: gulf.islands@pc.gc.ca

    I believe the email system follows the standard: firstname.lastname@pc.gc.ca
     
  5. Astoriadave

    Astoriadave Paddler

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    John,

    Lets hope for something illuminating from Parks. I have done only a little kayak camping since Parks took over, and that was early on, when the main complaint from paddlers was the closure of several water well pump sites. And, while I might have favored more sites in a given spot, I recognize there are other considerations than whether the maximum usage has been made of flat ground for tenting.

    Seems clear from the experiences of recent users of Rum there is much more demand, at times, than the three "tent sites" will handle. Also seems plain there is a wide divergence in what different paddlers think each such site should be able to handle: one physical tent, up to as many tents as can be fit to the space. Ten years ago, at the camping area on the north end of Wallace, when it was run by the Province, it was clear from signage the restriction was whatever would fit onto the gravel pad, typically one 4 person tent, at most.

    Good on ya for taking the time to dialog with Parks. I have had some frustrations dealing with Parks on Gwaii Haanas, years ago, and I hope you get good treatment.
     
  6. jk

    jk Paddler

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    Dan, that was a joke comment, btw. Not meant for a serious reply. I just like using the shocked face emoticon. :shock:
     
  7. jk

    jk Paddler

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    Re: Rum Island occupancy. Camped maybe four times since 2001, no sharesies that I recall. Also, probably 8 paddle-pasts, maybe two camper sightings. Also also, I remember the old provincial park occupancy stats which had Rum at just dozens compared to many hundreds elsewhere. No exact recollection of numbers but even accounting for freeloaders who never paid or registered it was still the least visited provincial park in the Gulf islands.

    Re: novice paddler comment of mine: I've been in Desolation using my cell and that comment got caught in some sort of time warp. It should have appeared significantly earlier than it did so is jarringly out of context as placed. I hate when technology makes you look like a dufus.

    Anyway, Dan, thanks for starting a valuable thread. Someone could write a thesis on the concept of private occupancy of public places. I tend to think your error was in failing to 'strew.' It seems the best way to ensure use of space is to scatter your site. Was at Home Bay, Jedediah and found one site spread along most of the beach by strategically placing tents, gear, kitchen and deck chairs along the beachfront. I came in on the side and claimed my little spot, but anyone after would have to either go in behind or confront the other party.

    The current accepted rule of occupancy by physical presence is flawed as it rewards the greedy and selfish. It is opportunistic. Your case, Dan, is rare as it is a first arrival having space issues. I think the opposite is the norm where by virtue of first arrival people claim whatever they can occupy, then usually (not always) put up a mental no vacancy sign to whoever follows regardless of capacity issues that ensue, the attitude being too bad, we were here first, deal with it.

    Anyway, after observing several strewn sites I'm thinking there's more to this subject than you first envisioned. At what point can you confront someone and what recourse do you have?
     
  8. explorer777

    explorer777 Paddler

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    Indeed! It has been an engaging thread to follow with many good discussion points. The experience in similar scenarios will obviously depend on the individuals and the situation. I've had good and bad experiences in sharing backcountry camping space in that some of the people I've met were delightful and engaging, and their addition to the camping area added good company, sharing of experience, knowledge and sometimes food, as well as additional security to the situation. In other situations...not so much.

    I will also add that I contacted Parks Canada to gain a clearer understanding of their position on overflow camping in the backcountry campgrounds in the Gulf Islands and here is the response I received:

    "The safety of our visitors is the number one priority for the park - should you arrive to any of our locations by the end of the day and all of the campsites are taken, absolutely, we encourage paddlers to exercise the Leave No Trace ethics and stay on the island to keep out of danger (whether for reasons of inclement weather or because of lack of energy to go on to another location). We respect the good judgement of our paddling community in cases like these..."
     
  9. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Was that the entire message received from Parks Canada? What you've posted doesn't seem to answer specifically what the limits are with regard to overcrowding -- seems more to me to be an evasive reply.
     
  10. mick_allen

    mick_allen Paddler & Moderator

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    it seems as clear as it could given hypothetical scenarios. Danger and safety were both mentioned. So:

    If all the campsites are taken AND if it's unsafe or dangerous to proceed, you may stay. The converse is unstated, but seems fairly obvious:
    If it is not dangerous and is safe to proceed, find another location. (ie the OP situation)
     
  11. explorer777

    explorer777 Paddler

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    That was basically it Dan, although I didn't ask specifically what the limits are with regards to overcrowding. I asked for clarification regarding Parks Canada’s policy/position regarding backcountry over flow camping and the example I used was if I arrive at Isle De Lis (Rum Island) and there are 3 tent pads but they are all taken do I have a responsibility to get back in my kayak and paddle to the next island camping area?

    I don't think they are saying unequivocally that you can only stay if it is dangerous to move to another island - I think the main gist of the reply is that Parks Canada trusts the good judgment of the paddling community in cases like these. I don't think they would want to say that you 'must' move on if a campsite is full because they don't want to potentially put people in harm's way by saying that you must move on if a campsite is full. Nor do I think they are going to give a specific number with regards to overcrowding. As with any camping area in a park, I think ideally they don't want to see any overflow camping but without a reservation system in place it is pretty hard to eliminate overflow camping. I will ask for further clarification and see if I get a response but I don't expect that we will get a definitive 'hard and fast' answer here.
     
  12. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    That was the same response I got yesterday when talking on the phone with Francine Burnett, Promotions Officer, Parks Canada, Sidney.
    When I asked specifically about non-safety situations, or large parties heading out to Rum as part of a planned trip, I couldn't get an answer, and got the referral 'up the chain' to the Superintendent and 'Visitor experience' manager.
    I didn't get transferred to communicate by telephone, but was advised to send an email, which I did yesterday.

    No response so far......
     
  13. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Perhaps the occupancy situation is changing in spite of ParksCanada's 'best efforts' to discourage Rum Is use??

    BTW, I was doing a search here on a different topic (Portland Is camping & launch spots) earlier today and happened upon a post describing a scene at a launch spot with a local guide and 'a large group of girls from a local private school heading out to camp on Rum Island' (not the exact quote) .

    Regarding freeloaders: When (if ever) did the 'no payment required during the winter' policy change? I've seen reference to it in posts here. It would certainly affect the stats if 'paying customers' is the only measure of use.
    I suppose a logbook in a box is too difficult....
     
  14. VanIslePaddler

    VanIslePaddler Paddler

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    I don't think Parks wants to get into defining specific site quotas... and honestly, I don't think we (the paddling community) do either...

    I imagine a situation where two groups approach a single island... first group lands... second group lands, and all of a sudden the island is one person above the quota... flashing lights, and wardens descend on the island... (sarcasm)... let us all be careful what we wish for.

    Honestly... push this too hard with parks, and BOTH recreational and commercial paddlers may feel the pinch...


    I believe Dan's original two complaints were:
    - A) Noise
    - B) Being surrounded by another large group


    A) Noise - I actually don't fault the guide here... Dan mentioned it appeared a client was being overly loud. The guide could have asked the individual to keep quieter, and perhaps he did... I know many people in my life that are 'LOUD' people... no matter how many times I ask them to speak quietly, it just seems like they constantly yell. Again, I was not there... But I agree we should, as mutual users of sites all be considerate of noise levels.

    B) Group placement: This is a hard one.
    - The guide may have been trying to minimize their impact on the site by utilizing the last two camp platforms, and the area around those spots to consolidate impact to the surrounding environment.
    - From the photo it appears the tents have tried to consolidate as close as possible...
    - If the guide had decided to give another user group 'space' and instead set up camp on the other side of the island where no camp spots are located, we could just as easily be having a discussion about how a group 'hacked out a spot in the bush ignoring the established camp pads'.


    I do not want to see commercial groups limited from use of Rum island... it is hard enough to operate a eco-tourism business in the Gulf Islands as it is.

    Commercial kayak companies are subject to numerous levels of government administration which many in the paddling community are unaware of. In order to operate in many areas, it is not uncommon for a single company to hold a variety of Crown Land Permits, BC Park Permits, and National Park permits, all which require time and money to develop, apply for, go through consultation, and hopefully achieve. This is in addition to insurance, regular business licences, kayak certification, and all the other aspects of running a business.

    - Kayak companies are not 'get-rich-quick' schemes. They are operations run by people who love paddling and the outdoors...
    - Kayak companies do not want to ruin the experience of other user groups... thats bad publicity, bad karma, bad everything...
    - Kayak companies generally want to facilitate all paddlers experience of an area, and many have built public outhouses, fixed sites on crown land after winter storm damage, and offer advice and local expertise if someone calls, walks into an office, or approaches them on the beach...

    - Guides are not 'getting rich'... short season... guides love paddling and the outdoors
    - Guides want to give their guests an incredible experience
    - Guides do not wish to intentionally ruin the experience of other users... (who would!?!?!)
    - In an age of lower Park funding, Guides often act as unofficial Park interpreters and safety facilitators (I have myself provided numerous weather interpretation, suggested suitable routes based upon experience, and helped rescue and warm hypothermic private paddlers)
    - Guides are only human... they will make mistakes...

    Lastly, as MANY have mentioned in this thread, these situations are exceptions to the rule, NOT common occurrences. I suggest we let it stay that way, an uncommon unfortunate situation which impacted someone's experience.

    As as guide, I have witnessed horrendous things perpetrated by private recreational paddlers to areas we enjoy...
    - I could, therefore, lobby to keep untrained people from our wilderness... but I will not
    - I will, however, adamantly continue to support access for all to our wild areas...
    - Members of WestCoastPaddler, I would argue, fall into the category of responsible, considerate private paddlers, for whom this does not apply...

    Okay... I'm going off on a tangent...
     
  15. explorer777

    explorer777 Paddler

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    Agreed! Great post - all of your points are excellent! I think that the paddling community in general exercises good judgment. I think we see more yahoos in the hiking and backpacking world but I think the majority of people in the paddling community understand and practice leave no trace ethics, which will hopefully reduce unpleasant experiences like the one in the OP.
     
  16. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Not surprised that Rum is the least visited island -- especially due to it's small size which is well documented in books and on websites. Here's an excerpt from the Parks Canada website:

    This island is popular with kayakers who stop overnight on multi-day paddling trips, but plan to arrive earlier in the day as there are only a limited number of campsites (3 sites).

    In most cases I think people (especially large groups) select Rum less often as a destination due to the probability that the campsite could already be occupied.

    If memory serves me correct, the pay through winter requirement came in at the same time or shortly after Parks Canada took over the Gulf Islands.

    I'd guess that for the most part, the vast majority of overnight visitors in the Gulf Islands do not pay at the campsites. I've heard many people comment (while camping or online) that they don't pay -- usually accompanied with one of a myriad of excuses and reasoning -- some valid, most not. Personally, I think the outhouses alone are worth the five bucks a night charge.

    I did notice a "counting" device at Rum Island on the trail coming off the beach -- looked like some sort of camera -- not sure how it works but someone (I suspect Parks Canada) is tracking visits to the park. I've also seen similar devices on Portland and D'Arcy and have heard that they are on other islands as well.

    With regard to the number of tent pads in the campsites on each of the islands -- I'm not a hundred percent about this but I'm pretty sure that there haven't been any new tent pads added since the BC Parks ran the islands.
     
  17. Dan_Millsip

    Dan_Millsip Paddler & Admin

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    Agreed, and didn't expect more of a reply than was given by Parks Canada. And while I really, really don't want to see endless rows of tent pads on these islands, a few more pads added to a few campsites would probably help reduce a bit of the crowdedness.

    Completely get what you're saying here.


    You can probably add - C) A lack of communication between myself and the guide


    Not so sure I agree here. Part of the stewardship that is shared with guests needs to and should be about the effect of noise not only on wildlife but also for human neighbours (who are usually there in the first place because they crave a bit of quiet). I do know how some people are regarding talking loud but I believe that if someone were excessively noisy in my group that I could convince them to be quiet.


    I should explain how we were set up on Rum -- we had the two outermost tent pads, the one in the middle being the one that abuts the trail entering the campsite -- we figured we'd have the spot to ourselves so picked sites that appealed to each of us. We also occupied the picnic table beside the uppermost tent pad at the west end of the campsite. The group set up primarily in the middle, between Maddie's and my tent, and to the east of the picnic table that we occupied. The tents appear to be quite consolidated in the photos because there were tents on pretty much every available flat spot in the campsite. Edit: I need to mention here that there were two tents set up on the remaining tent pad -- seemed to me that it was done to minimize their footprint.

    - C) Communication

    Had I communicated with the guide at the outset, we most likely would have moved both Maddie's and my tents to the east end of the campsite (the logical place for the smaller group), kept the same picnic table, and left the remainder of the campsite for the group. Had this occurred, we probably wouldn't be having this discussion as the social dynamic would have been significantly different.


    I don't however think it would be unreasonable due to the size of the facility, to limit the party size for commercial trips to Rum Island. I think Mark's number of 5 works well and is reasonable. Hypothetically, we could have been a group of 8 - 10 people. Had this been the case, another group of ten people arriving (and not being able to move on) and the campsite would have been severely overcrowded and people would likely have set up tents outside the camp area. Certainly doable for a night or two but most likely not entirely pleasant for everyone or the terrain.


    Well aware of the hoops and bureaucracy that guides go through to operate above board and agree that it is pretty darned demanding. Also agree with all your other points. Nearly all the guides that I've met have been excellent ambassadors for the wilderness environment and generally don't hesitate to offer assistance or helpful advice to those around them -- paying guests or not. As I've stated previously in this discussion, I think guides provide an important service that we all, as outdoor users, benefit from.


    Unfortunately, the sad reality is that more and more people are venturing out into areas like the Gulf Islands and similar instances are likely to occur more often as time goes on. How we all deal with situations and with each other will make the biggest amount of difference towards everyones enjoyment. Hopefully, discussion such as this one can help a bit to iron out the wrinkles that might appear along the way.


    My sentiments as well.

    Thanks Liam -- always appreciate your thoughtful comments.
     
  18. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    A few points:
    1) When I was on the telephone with Francine Burnett of Parks Canada, she said that all the commercial users of the park get a 'very thorough orientation' and she certainly was interested in getting the name(s) of any commercial (larger than 3 tent) groups using Rum Is for camping. I couldn't provide any names, of course, and wouldn't have done so in any case.

    2)The "Be quiet and they won't notice us; don't make waves" strategy is one that I don't think will benefit the non-commercial paddling community. If the (still unconfirmed to me) rumours of ticketing via flying squad on D'Arcy a few years ago are true, then Parks Canada has noticed independent campers already. And there are plenty of 'private interests' who are all too happy to have their voices heard.....

    3)On Rum Is, I don't think there is any need for more tent platforms or 'tent pads'. There are plenty of 'soft' spots where a small tent occupied for a night or two, would not be a problem IMO. Tent platforms and pads are impracticable eyesores in most spots I've seen them. The idea that '#campsites=#of tent platforms' is a step in the wrong direction, IMO.
     
  19. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    That was in 2003?

    I knew I'd seen it recently, and checked my browser history:

    http://www.westcoastpaddler.com/gallery ... m=68&pos=0

    I just checked on the Parks Canada website - details at:
    http://www.pc.gc.ca/pn-np/bc/gulf/visit/visit2.aspx

    Apparently even now, no fees are required at Rum and most of the other National Park kayak destinations in the off-season.

    The reason I asked was because when I was on Rum Is last March there was a prominent sign about paying fees (no season indicated), and my friends and I assumed the policy had been changed- to our consternation, since none of us had any money....

    It seems we were in good company in our misunderstanding! :)
     
  20. JohnAbercrombie

    JohnAbercrombie Paddler

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    Francine Burnett at ParksCanada made a similar observation when I talked to her on the telephone, implying that the question of the appropriate number of campsites for each location had not been studied since the transfer from the province, and that ParksCanada just took the number of sites existing at the takeover date as the optimum/appropriate number.