The Fort Saskatchewan Lions Club is asking the city to help it meet public demand for more campsites at the club’s campground in Turner Park.
The Lions want to add at least one more loop to their 24-site campground, making room for about 20 additional units in the near future and potentially more longer term.
Don Westman, chairman of the management board of the campground, said the need for an expanded campground is long proven. Westman was at Tuesday’s council meeting to ask the city to look into letting the club expand into land directly northeast of the existing site. Council agreed to the request, directing city staff to prepare a report on the possible expansion.
Council also passed a motion to have staff prepare a land use bylaw amendment creating a specific district for the campground to help guide development of the area.
"We believe that the far end of Turner Park is the perfect location for this campground and there is plenty of room there for expansion without interfering with anything,” Westman said. The club already has the funds and volunteers in place to go ahead with adding the new sites.
The Lions Club has been running the campground for five years. Last year, the facility had a total of 549 check-ins.
"On top of that,” Westman said, “from late May and going right through to mid-August, we have been turning away up to 10-12 customers every single day.” Westman said that this represents a significant loss to the local economy, adding that each new site could generate about $2000, providing more grant money for local organizations like the community band, the library and Families First.
According to Westman, the club has put an average of $100,000 back into the community for the past two years.
The campground issue, which has a long history in the city, has come up at council meetings every two or three years. In 2014, after a successful appeal by nearby residents, council rescinded a 2013 decision that approved expansion of the campground.
Local resident Doug Jones, who lives near the site and is opposed to any development that could disrupt Turner Park, wants to see closure on the issue.
“So here we go again. I’m tired of doing this,” he said at Tuesday's meeting. Jones has spoken against expansion in the past and said that he and other residents will continue to do so.
Westman has heard from people in the area who support the expansion and don’t want to see parts of Turner Park become an unsupervised “party zone”. Eventually he would like to see a long-range plan put in place for the campground, with the whole area mapped out.
Before passing the motions related to the campground expansion, councillors raised questions about environmental impact, campground rules and other issues.
Councillor Gordon Harris agreed that it’s time for city council to bring an end to the ongoing issue, for the sake of concerned residents and the wider community.
“We just heard earlier that the uncertainty about this thing coming back every two years is causing some concern for some of the residents who live up above,” he said. “I think we need to create some certainty and I think that this is the council that should move it to the point where we actually create a firm policy relative to this with appropriate controls and land use so that they can get on with their life and that we can have a community amenity that will ultimately contribute positively to our community.”
City staff will bring the issue back to council by Sep.30.