There is no easy solution to resolving the community’s concerns – like discarded needles and garbage – surrounding the makeshift camp near Gyro Park.
The Trail Times asked various agencies what can be done to address the problem near the Trail park as well as a similar tent set-up near the Old Trail Bridge and trailers parked on the road to Casino.
For starters, the Trail RCMP detachment is aware of the camp along the river near Gyro Park and trailers along Casino Road, Sgt. Mike Wicentowich told the Times.
“The Trail RCMP Detachment will monitor the situation,” he explained. “We are working toward a solution; however, homelessness is a complex and difficult issue to solve. Enforcement is not the only consideration or solution to this persistent problem.”
The people living in the jerry-built shelters are known to police and are lifetime Trail residents, Wicentowich said.
“And (they are) considered hard-to-house clients. The Trail RCMP detachment is working with a local Trail mental health and addictions group on this issue.”
As far as alleged drug use at certain sites – photos of dirty needles, open naloxone kits and other drug paraphernalia have circulated on social media – arresting users is not the primary focus of police.
“The Trail and Castlegar Joint Crime Reduction Unit have arrested several drug traffickers in recent months and continue to investigate in this manner,” Wicentowich said. “The police do arrest individuals for personal possession of drugs; however, the focus right now is on the ones trafficking it.”
Jurisdiction over what happens on the banks of the Columbia River, like a makeshift camp, falls to the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations (FLNRO).
So the City of Trail’s hands are somewhat tied.
“We are well aware of this fact and, as a result, have been taking action but are unable to take direct control as the locations are situated on Crown land,” Trail Mayor Mike Martin explained. “Where we have no jurisdiction and need to work with others (province, RCMP etc.) who have the authority to take action.”
Martin says the tent location in the Gyro Park area is well away from the family-oriented, developed park areas and hidden from the dog walking path alongside the river bank.
To follow up, the city will continue to work with the Ministry of FLNRO encouraging them to take action, said Martin.
“We were able to partially take action with one of the situations as a result of hazards to the community (wood pallets and some garbage), ” he reiterated. “However, in this case, the tent locations are outside of city jurisdiction. And for that reason, we rely on other agencies to take the necessary action and we will continue to ensure the appropriate people are adequately advised of our concerns and the urgency of dealing with an impact on our community.”
When Trail does have the necessary jurisdiction, the city will follow up and deal with situations as they arise.
“It is most frustrating that a municipality does not have the tools by which to directly address these situations,” Martin said. “And (it’s) one which needs to be explored further, possibly through UBCM, as we are not alone in facing these difficulties.”
While these camps have only recently surfaced in Trail, others have been located in the regional district’s Area B for years.
And, like the municipality, there is only so much the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary can do, according to Area B Director Linda Worley.
These camps, located on the road to Casino, are trailers that are not hooked up to amenities like water or sewer.
“Yes it is happening and I have tried for three years to get answers,” Worley told the Times. “The bottom line is that this is on Department of Highways ‘ROW’ or ‘Right of Way.’”
Worley says she was informed “that they are not doing anything about it.”
“My hands are tied as I have tried everything,” Worley concluded. “But it is not in my jurisdiction to go any further, as I have overstepped for quite some time.”
Replies from the Ministry of FLNRO and Interior Health were not available by press time.