A large increase in traffic on Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) land has prompted a public notice by chief and council. Already, Chief Keith Crow explained, they are seeing out-of-town visitors arrive, trespass across private lands and damage properties while on the hunt for mushrooms. (Keremeos Review file)

Unwelcome visitors on hunt for mushrooms concerning for Lower Similkameen chief

Visitors trespassing, damaging properties, putting community at risk, says Chief Crow

A large increase in traffic on Lower Similkameen Indian Band (LSIB) land has prompted a public notice by chief and council.

Already, Chief Keith Crow explained, they are seeing out-of-town visitors arrive, trespass across private lands and damage properties while on the hunt for mushrooms.

The LSIB’s First Nation police officer has been patrolling several more areas than they normally would, in an attempt to deal with this increase in traffic.

“People have been very rude to my members, and they’re going through members’ private lands, and it’s really frustrating,” said Crow.

Chief and council said these actions, which have re-occurred each year since a large wildfire in 2018, show a complete disregard for the reserve and traditional lands these individuals illegally enter.

In addition to damaging property and trespassing illegally, they said this poses a large risk to their community of around 550.

READ MORE: Land access amid COVID-19 a topic of concern for Penticton Indian Band members

Although some individuals are allowed, through commercial operation, to harvest mushrooms on Crown land, the LSIB explained that all their reserve and traditional lands are closed to the general public during mushroom picking season.

In 2019, the increased traffic escalated to the point where the LSIB deactivated one of their roads.

“Given the current COVID-19 crisis we are experiencing, we would expect that everyone will be mindful of the health concerns they could be bringing into our communities,” read the release by the LSIB.

Crow said he’s been getting calls almost every weekend regarding increased traffic on their reserve. The Ashanola River corridor, he said, has been extremely busy.

“People are cooped up, they just think ‘Oh, we’re just going to go up the hill.’ But everybody’s doing it,” said Crow. “There’s a lot of people going up there that don’t need to be.”

With the long weekend coming up, Crow said he’s worried. Forestry and provincial parks, he explained, remain closed for camping. However, some day-use parks in B.C. will go back into use May 14.

READ MORE: COVID-19: Selected B.C. parks set to open for day use May 14

“The day-use parks are going to open for light traffic, day traffic, but no overnight camping. We’re going to see how that pans out over the long weekend,” he said.

“My fear is, it’s all the people that are coming through,” he added. “We have our campground at the bottom which is still closed, and we have the bathrooms locked, but it doesn’t mean that people aren’t still trying to get in. We’ve been running into issues with people trying to stop at our campgrounds, open the gates… It’s also just the extra traffic I don’t think we need at this time.”

When the LSIB first implemented its campground ban, Crow explained that many people from Vancouver started arriving in town and started shopping at the local store.

“That just adds to the (COVID-19) threat in small towns,” he said. “Because everyone’s trying to stick to the small store, we’re doing our shopping here. It’s just a fear. It’s just a big worry.”

Crow urged people to listen to what Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry is saying.

“She’s saying… we’re going to start slowly moving back into normal, but it’s going to be a new normal. And I hope everyone just tries to stay home and take care of themselves, and I really hope none of my members get this (COVID-19).”

@KeremeosNews
phil.mclachlan@pentictonwesternnews.com

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