The road to the Chuu'is camp area is now blocked with boulders to minimize disruptions at the beach on Kennedy Lake this summer. (Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation photo)
In an effort to cut down on disruptive, all-night parties to the site where Clayoquot Arm and Kennedy Lake meet, vehicle access to the Chuu’is camp area has been blocked.
Large boulders now stand at the road to what is commonly known as “Redneck Beach,” located just past the entrance to Rainbow Beach north of Highway 4. Chuu’is is now intended to be a day-use camp area only, after years of abuse from tourists and weekend campers with lakeside vehicles, said Saya Masso, the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation’s manager of land and resources.
“It should minimize long-term camping and try to restore a family atmosphere out there,” he said. “There’s just a general feeling of unsafety if you go out there with your children. It’s a party atmosphere; we’re trying to change that expectation.”
The camp area is in the Tla-o-qui-aht’s territory, at a “culturally and ecologically significant” spot where the two lakes meet, stated a bulletin released by the First Nation in May. Now those who wish to use the site will walk approximately 100 metres to the beach.
“There’s been a lot of broken glass, garbage, refuse, people driving their vehicles. There is fish habitat and shoreline grasses, and stuff like that that people drive quads on,” explained Masso. “The other year someone had used a candle to sit inside a standing hollow tree. It caught fire and the forest company had to go and put that out.”
Over the years Chuu’is has gained a reputation for free shoreline camping in a west coast region where available sites are hard to come by when tourism intensifies each summer. The outdoor adventure website Mowgli.ca identifies the site as a rowdy alternative to the more subdued atmosphere of nearby Rainbow Beach.
“There is usually a party here and if anyone tells you to be quiet, tell them they came to the wrong beach,” states the website. “The logging road access is pretty good too, well graded and can be driven quite fast. Too fast sometimes and you often see cars in the ditch. I do love to rally race this road. My car has certainly suffered some abuse because of it.”
Changing the treatment of the beach remains a challenge, explained Masso.
“People have just moved the boulder and are just sneaking around the edge of it with trucks,” he said. “It’s a really beautiful place, but until we get the infrastructure to manage it with safe communication to RCMP and ambulance, the place needs to be closed down a bit.”
The Tla-o-qui-aht’s long-term plan for “Redneck Beach” is to develop it into a full camping area, equipped with amenities for 50 or more sites.
“We are working with BC Parks to try and look at the medium and long-run plan,” said Masso. “It’ll be a world-class campground someday. We have these two great lakes that meet before going out to the ocean. It’s a really beautiful place and it’s not managed properly right now. We’re just trying to return that to something that’s more beautiful.”
For the time being all Tla-o-qui-aht members are encouraged to enjoy Chuu’is this summer and leave the beach in a better state then when they arrive.