The Regional District of Central Kootenay has dropped a bylaw that would have targeted organizers of backcountry festivals.
Rural Kaslo director Andy Shadrack, who was among those pushing for the mass-gathering legislation, says a recent staff report indicated it couldn’t be implemented easily or enforced effectively.
“We first have to go to the province and get an order-in-council to consider enacting it, and it wouldn’t cover Crown land,” he explains. “The recommendation from staff was not to proceed.”
The bylaw withered at the committee stage before making it back to the board level.
However, Shadrack says he remains concerned about large gatherings in the bush “where there is no effective medical, no water, no sanitation. We had an event up the Cody Caves road last year that cost taxpayers $20,000 to clean up … I was disappointed the Ministry of Forests allowed the event to go forward when they could have stopped it.”
Shadrack isn’t sure whether the event is going ahead again this year.
The bylaw would have imposed stiff regulations and fees on event promoters and required them to consult the RCMP and Ministry of Health before running a festival, and also have medical and security staff on site.
When it was proposed last summer, Kaslo mayor Greg Lay said such events put a strain on local emergency responders when they coincided with other major functions.
Although the bylaw received some positive feedback from a promoter of the Loki Festival, held west of Kaslo last summer, others criticized it as unfair to small events.
Rural Salmo director Hans Cunningham also noted that larger festivals, such as Shambhala, are already meeting the standards the bylaw would have required.
“They have their own security and work hand-in-hand with the RCMP and Interior Health,” Cunningham says. “[The bylaw] seemed like a useless, expensive exercise.”
Shadrack adds “a large number of people were quite happy when the committee voted not to go ahead, but I think they misunderstand what’s going on.
“This isn’t about regulating the people who want to go to these events. It’s about regulating the organizers and preventing them from making money and leaving a mess behind.”
Still, he agreed there were too many roadblocks for the bylaw to proceed.
Shadrack says anyone with concerns will just have to approach the RCMP or provincial government.
(This story will appear in the April 28 edition of the West Kootenay Advertiser.)