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Music festival camping planned for Squamish schools

Parents and neighbours have many concerns about plans to put thousands on playing fields

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More than 20,000 music festival visitors are going be squeezed into camping areas in the Squamish Business Park this August and festival organizers are looking for even more camping sites.

Back in November Paul Runnals of the Squamish Valley Music Festival (SVMF) received permission from the School District 48 Board of Trustees to set up campsites on the playing fields at Squamish and Mamquam Elementary schools. He was back before the board Wednesday, Jan. 15 to request the use of the playing field at Howe Sound Secondary as well.

Trustee Andrea Beaubien said the board of school trustees listened to a presentation from Runnals but no decision was made.

"We will consider the information and discuss it at our next meeting," Beaubien said.

The SVMF has one more hurdle to clear before full approval is in place for the camping plan at the schools. A District of Squamish Temporary Use Permit (TUP) is needed and the TUP process includes public consultation.

Those with concerns over the camping plan for the Squamish Business Park shared thoughts with Squamish council before the TUP for those two sites was granted. The community feedback led to a number of conditions added to the TUP, including a thicker tree buffer being left in place to help reduce impacts for Government Road residents with property backing onto one of the business park camping sites.

Runnals said the camping plans for the schools will look much like the plans created for the two sites in the business park.

"It's a similar design scenario," said Runnals. "It is a much smaller number because it is smaller space but the concept of operations is very similar."

The camping areas include security fencing around the perimeter, portable toilets, portable showers, lighting, waste stations, medical tents, communal areas and emergency exit gates.

The adjacent fields at Howe Sound and Squamish Elementary are capable of holding about 1,750 camping sites while Mamquam can accommodate about 650 sites, said Runnals. Each site will hold up to four campers.

Parent Muriel Hanson said she supports the festival, but worries about the impacts of having festival campers on school fields. A new play structure was recently installed at Mamquam Elementary School with money raised by the school Parent Advisory Committee.

"The equipment is great for kids to play on but would be damaged if it had drunk adults playing on it," said Hanson.

The play area is covered with sawdust and she worries drug paraphernalia could drop into the sawdust, which could then be uncovered later by students.

Meanwhile, Runnals said the Aug. 8 to 10 lineup of festival entertainers will be announced soon.

"They are all done," Runnals said of the contracts with the various musicians. "They've been done for several months and they will be announced this month."

Check the Pique's website for SVMF camping updates and for the festival headliners once the acts are announced.

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