Toddler's death spurs new rules for unofficial campsites

Teresa Wright
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The judges tower at Raceway Park in Oyster bed Bridge

The tragic death of a toddler two years ago in P.E.I. has led to new rules for festivals and events that host campers.

A three-year-old was riding his bike at the Raceway Park in Oyster Bed in 2012 when he was hit by a pickup truck and died.

The boy had been camping with his mother and her boyfriend in a parking area adjacent to the racetrack used by drag racers and their families for camping.

The tragedy was ruled accidental, but it generated an internal review at the Department of Tourism over how campsites are regulated across the province.

Tourism Minister Robert Henderson says this review found the campsite at the raceway park was unlicensed.

And it is just one of many similar sites where tourists and locals set up camp in parking lots or fields for special events and weekend festivals throughout the summer and fall in P.E.I.

However, these unofficial campsites are not allowed to operate without a license from the province – a law that has long been in place in P.E.I.

“The department identified those (sites) and sent some letters to make them aware that the Tourism Industry Act has to be adhered to and standards have to be met,” Henderson said.

“The issue is, visitors come to Prince Edward Island and they have expectations when people are allowing them to stay on their properties that certain standards may be met… there are some issues around public safety and standards that we have to comply with.”

The issue was raised during question period in the legislature Thursday when Opposition tourism critic James Aylward raised concern over the fact small, volunteer-run festivals were receiving ‘threatening letters’ from the department over their unlicensed campsites.

“Why would you threaten this integral part of our tourism industry across P.E.I. when, essentially, they have been doing the same type of business for decades here on P.E.I. in providing an essential, affordable tourism component to the industry here on P.E.I., and doing a wonderful job, I might add?” Aylward asked.

He said these small, community operators cannot afford the fees and red tape involved in becoming licensed.

Henderson said his department is working with these groups, but his primary concern is public safety.

He also stressed these rules have long been law in P.E.I. They simply have not always been strictly enforced.

“There’s no event that I’m aware of that has had to cease operations based on these rules that we’re just trying to enforce,” Henderson said.

“I would say to any organization – we are willing to work with them, but there are certain things that we cannot compromise with, and I think it’s important that when visitors come to a location in Prince Edward Island, they’re going to have a certain expectation of standards and that safety (measures) are going to be adhered to.”



Organizations: Department of Tourism

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Raceway Park, P.E.I.However

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Recent comments

  • Eileen Brown
    April 07, 2014 - 14:18

    I don't agree with the licence we have a Bluegrass &Oldtime Music Festival. in St Louis 3 day Event once a year we have heavy Security , don't allow children to ride bycicles on grounds . Just because of some people 's neglect everyone has to pay for it. Every year we get added expenses We certainly won't be able to continue much longer .

  • mt
    April 05, 2014 - 18:39

    perhaps they should enforce the rules and not allow the freeloaders to park/camp overnight at Wal-Mart.

  • Amanda
    April 05, 2014 - 10:58

    There are PLENTY of excellent LICENSED camping areas all over our beautiful province that we should be supporting. Paying a little extra for security and safety is well worth it.

  • jimmy
    April 05, 2014 - 07:52

    Rules need to stop being made for every persons mistake. that incident would have happened wether the track was licensed or not. humans naturally have flaw, we have accidents. unfortunatly a sweet young boy was lost that day but theres no need to waste tax payers money on this.

  • Robert
    April 04, 2014 - 14:10

    How could they punish someone for having an unlicensed camp ground, if it's not a camp ground? Bunch of racing buddies camping out in a field. Problem solved.

  • Bob
    April 04, 2014 - 09:15

    Not about the fees? Really? No where in the news report does it mention a thing about safety! Here we go again using safety as an excuse to pay "more" taxes and fees. We treat the public like they are all idiots, " psychology of setting a mind frame?" Come on! People see tents and trailers and they don't know people are camping? This is simply a tragic accident that could happen on the streets, farms parking lots of any town in Canada, the government is just seizing the opportunity to take more money from the public.

    • not about the fees
      April 04, 2014 - 12:07

      by requiring the place to be "licenced" if permitting campers, it gives authorities power to intervene when people camp there in violation of the law. I guarantee, I wouldn't let my child go on a trike in a parking lot, but absolutely would let him go in an area where I am camping... it's about mindframe and liability. This was born out of an inquiry into the death of a child. If you think it's solely about taxes and fees, then you lack a background in both finance and law.

  • chris
    April 04, 2014 - 09:02

    raceway park should never be classed as a camp ground to begin with. The facility is a safe and legal place that allows car enthusiasts a place to take there race machines to compete in a legal side by side racing contest also know as drag racing. but putting all these rules in place it is making it harder and harder for the owners of the track to be able to keep the doors open. as it is a race track there is always going to be a large amount of traffic moving thru out the facility, and as a racer the visibility from some of these race cars is limited and if you decide to bring small children to the track with you it is your job to make sure they stay out of harms way. giving the place camp ground rules isn't going to do anything but make the government more undeserved cash flow

    • Amy
      April 04, 2014 - 12:57

      I couldn't agree with you more!!!!

  • Jim
    April 04, 2014 - 05:44

    I miss all those day use parks we used to enjoy free when I was a boy. The Government here has to stop anything they can`t collect money from,and it seems they always have a buddy down the road who is running a resort . Remember we have to gouge everyone we can .

  • bob
    April 03, 2014 - 20:20

    I guess this will put an end to those campers at Walmart and other parking lots. lol

  • A Patron of Raceway Park
    April 03, 2014 - 19:38

    So can anyone explain to me how raceway park paying or not paying this licensing fee would have made any difference in the outcome of this tragic event? From what the article says, the only "rule" being put in place is that a fee is being enforced which is to be paid to the government? Nothing for how these places are to govern their events?

    • not about the fees
      April 04, 2014 - 07:25

      It's not about collecting fees, it's about changing people's perception of whether they are in a "campsite" or "parking lot". If they perceive "parking lot" and know that camping is prohibited/illegal in that area, they perceive a higher risk to their kids, then they will be much less likely to let their small children ride tricycles in that area, which is what caused this small child's death. Nothing to do with fees, it's all to do with the psychology of setting people's mind frame and thought process to properly understand and perceive the risks of the area in question.