A longtime Grand Forks resident remains at loggerheads with the city over a camper parked at the Granby River’s “Bare Ass Beach,” with city hall saying it had to file for an injunction to move her out.
Melanie Jennings and her family having been living out of the camper since June. She told the Gazette this week that her problems with the city started only after users of the humorously named beach started complaining about her presence in mid-July.
“It’s not like I want to stay here,” Jennings told the Gazette on Sept. 3.
“I’ve asked the city where I can go, because I’ve moved the camper five or six times. But, everywhere we’ve gone, we’re not allowed to be.”
The city filed an injunction with a B.C. Supreme Court to have the camper moved, but in an interview with the Gazette this week, Jennings said the city reneged on its offer to tow the camper off city land in late August. According to Jennings, the arrangement fell through after she said the city asked her to provide the address of the final destination. She refused because she suspected the city was planning to impound the camper after it was towed.
Jennings said her two children, 17 and 12, and their three dogs have moved to several Grand Forks locations over the last year.
They had been living for months at the Imperial Motel, where she wasn’t allowed to keep pets in her room. She tried keeping the animals in a car at night, but this led to more problems.
Kootenay Boundary Animal Control’s Sean Noble confirmed that his office responded to two calls involving concerns that the dogs were being neglected outside the Imperial. Noble said animal control determined the dogs were well fed and watered, and that the car windows had been left down far enough to allow for safe air flow.
Jennings said she then decided to take her family “as far away as possible outside the limelight” – near Gage Creek on the North Fork. She said someone fired a rifle into her camper window there.
She brought her family to their “final resting place” near Bare Ass Beach as a last resort.
“I feel like I’m being set up to fail here,” she said after learning about the city’s intention to get her to leave with a court order.
Grand Forks mayor and chief administrative office (CAO) each insisted city staff had done their best not just to get Jennings to move but that the city went to great lengths to arrange safe housing for Jennings and her children.
“There is a human rights issue here,” said Taylor.
Mayor Brian Taylor repeatedly emphasized that the city is morally obligated to ensure that homeless people in Grand Forks have safe places to stay before they are moved off city property.
CAO Duncan Redfearn said Jennings was issued a trespass notice in late August after several residents complained to councillors and on city Facebook pages about garbage left at Jennings’ campsite. Some complainants said people in the camper stopped them from accessing Bare Ass Beach, which Jennings denied.
Redfearn said, “It can’t be emphasized enough that council’s instructions to staff have always been to work with the people in the camper to try and resolve the situation without having to rely on an injunction.”
City staff have been told that Jennings has moved her camper to where she said she is no longer on city property, Taylor indicated Wednesday evening. If true, Taylor said she her camper would be on Crown land within the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary.
This might mean that the city has to revise its injunction with the Supreme Court at Rossland, which Taylor said would add to mounting legal fees.
“I don’t know what her end game is, because it won’t be fun to live out there during the winter,” when Taylor said freezing temperatures can drop to -40.