The Chilliwack Rhythm Reelers will have to find a new camping location for their 2019 event which has put them in a crunch. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)

Squaredancers asked to stop using Chilliwack sports field for camping

Although group had rented same venue for almost 20 years, city reps had to draw the line to be fair

Chilliwack Rhythm Reelers are going to have to find a new camping spot for their annual event for 2019.

The squaredancing group was notified by City of Chilliwack staff that parking on the field near Atchelitz Hall contravenes the city parks bylaw, despite their members having camped there every year for almost two decades with no issues.

Steve Armstrong, president of the Chilliwack Rhythm Reelers, says they found out they’d have to move when they went to reserve the hall as usual this fall.

“They put us in a real crunch,” he said.

Planning for the three-day event takes more than a year to book a location, so they will have to start looking.

City officials are drawing a line in the sand this fall, in an effort to be fair to all groups, and to prevent vehicles, trailers and campers from damaging civic property and sports fields.

Mayor Sharon Gaetz said council must remain “good stewards of the infrastructure.”

Staff has been working closely with the group to switch locations, possibly to Heritage Park, which is only one kilometre away.

“I would like them not to be stuck,” Gaetz said at the council meeting.

The longstanding group was not left in the lurch, and will be allowed an exception for the upcoming event June 1, 2, and 3, 2018.

The one proviso was that if there was any damage caused, that it be remediated.

The Rhythm Reelers will be exploring their options for 2019, having already looked at Tzeachten sports field, and one in Agassiz. They are also considering Heritage Park, but cost is a significant factor for the non-profit squaredance group.

The whole parking became an issue when it came to light that the Rhythm Reelers had been using the Atchelitz sports field adjacent the Atchelitz Hall on Lickman Road to camp at the site for 19 years.

The vehicles have to cross overtop a septic field, and that means creating the risk of oil leaks, as well as damaged infrastructure.

Although the city report stressed that “no damage” had been caused to the septic lid or the sports field by the squaredancing group to date, “the City of Chilliwack has recently had to address other user groups accessing civic property for the same reason, and have asked them to cease.”

Parking on sports fields is prohibited under the Parks, Recreation and Culture Regulatory Bylaw and the group was told to cease.

Part of the issue is a septic lid located at the access point to the Atchelitz sports field., “repeated loads to this infrastructure could compromise its integrity,” according to the report.

In the end, council voted unanimously last week to uphold its bylaw, but added an amendment allow the group to have a year of grace.

Staff is trying to make new venue arrangements with the group to accommodate them in ways so they don’t suffer “undue hardships,” if all other venues were booked for that first weekend in June, said Gaetz.


 

@chwkjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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