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'Perma campers' hogging Alberta crown land, fines ineffective, says frustrated camper

Last Updated Aug 12, 2020 at 10:00 am MDT

CALGARY – With the pandemic forcing border closures and event cancellations, many Canadians are spending more time roughing it this summer.

But an Alberta camper says besides more people wanting to camp this summer, there’s one big reason some are having a hard time finding any spots–“perma campers”.

These so-called perma campers set up their tents or trailers on crown land and keep them there for the whole summer, leaving the city each weekend to escape to fire-roasted hotdogs and smores.

“There’s a frustration to knowing that there are some spots that we’re never going to have,” said Catherine Simoneau, who recently discovered this community of semi-permanent residents who take over a plot of provincial land near Racehorse Creek, about a two-hour drive south from Calgary.

She showed up to try to camp for the weekend, but there were no spots to be found.

This is very much a normal practice according to the creator of the Facebook group Crown Land Camping Alberta.

“There’s quite a few people that leave [their campers] out there and it’s against the rules,” said Ryan Epp.

The Alberta government says campers can hold a camping spot on crown land for no longer than 14 days, but Simoneau says the people that get fined for overstaying their allotted two weeks don’t really mind breaking the rules.

“[They] get fined for it every year and consider it rent.”

But if these campers are okay with paying fines as a form of rent, Simoneau wonders why they don’t just pay for a site at a private campground.

“Why not… let other people use crown land?”

Epp says he’s seen even more people setting up shop for the summer as more people try to vacation closer to home, but he encourages crown-land campers to respect the rules and share the space.