Residents, campers, feel effects of special events 

Busy summer means some campers turned away

click to enlarge FILE PHOTO - LOT FULL Campers can be turned away from places such as Riverside, pictured here, during long weekends and special events in Whistler.
  • file photo
  • LOT FULL Campers can be turned away from places such as Riverside, pictured here, during long weekends and special events in Whistler.

It's been one hell of a summer. Whistler's jam-packed weekend events have brought tens of thousands of visitors, but at the expense of some businesses, locals and even tourists.

For Pemberton resident, Rhonda Gilmore, she lost almost two shifts of work during the Ironman event, which closed Highway 99 for most of July 30.

"If you were one of the people who had to work on Sundays, for example, and didn't have any other way around, it was like the world stopped. I missed about four hours of work and I was something like two hours late for my next job," said Gilmore, who added that her employers understood her predicament. There has to be a better solution, she added.

"What could Pemberton do? Keep one lane open?" she said. "There has to be at least some idea — (organizers) are not really asking the people who are out here.

"Why don't they do it where you have an alternative? It's a one-way-in and one-way-out road, that's the problem," she said.

Marc Mendonca, who operates Grimm's Gourmet & Deli in Pemberton, thinks there should be more give and take with summer events. The Ironman event goes right past his deli, which he closed on July 30 because patrons didn't have access.

"It doesn't make sense to close," he said. "Perhaps we should be looking at a tradeoff for us. From a business perspective, the festival is as important to Pemberton as Ironman is to Whistler. We lost (with Ironman). We have a smaller community. I would like to see us gain in a different weekend, something that's good for the community," he said.

The full-highway closure for Ironman also stranded some tourists in Pemberton. At area campgrounds, staff said tourists — especially from Europe — are unaware of special events and long-weekend holidays.

"It's big events that happen... like the Ironman, Pemberton Music Festival — those are the events we sold out maybe two months ago. You feel kind of bad because it's the people who are going across the northwest and they show up with no reservation and we probably turn away 20 to 30 people a night," said Gina Ciccone, Riverside RV Park's front-desk supervisor.

"I can imagine how hard it must be coming from another country and running into something like B.C. Day, or Canada Day, and everything is sold out months and months ago," said Ciccone.

It's the same at Whistler RV Park, where manager Kyra Denhamer said campers are sometimes turned away on special weekends.

"There have been a few weekends where, unfortunately, we have to send them away, especially during Ironman they had to go down to Vancouver because there was nothing from Squamish all the way up to Merritt," said Denhamer.

"For Ironman, I feel bad for them because they do end up getting stuck. I'm sure there were a lot of people sleeping on the highway because there's just nowhere we can physically put them when we're full and our overflow is full," said Denhamer.

According to stats from the Ministry of environment, BC Parks has processed more than 159,000 reservations for camping, an increase of 13 per cent from this time last year.

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