Vanmore in Canmore will be no more come spring

Beginning May 4, people living out of their vehicles in an area of Canmore colloquially called "Vanmore" will have to pay and register to park, among other hurdles.

Pilot program regulates parking for those living out of their vans and imposes fee

Dan Markey, who was living out of his RV in Canmore last year, estimates up to 10 people live like he does during the winter season. (Elizabeth Withey/CBC)

Vanmore — a well-known area in the town of Canmore where people live out of their vehicles — will soon be no more as Canmore tries a new initiative. 

Called the Safe Overnight Parking Pilot Program, the initiative addresses the increased community of people in Canmore who rely on their vans for housing.

Vanmore is located in the parking lots behind the Canmore Save-On-Foods and Elevation Place, the town's recreation centre.

The pilot program affecting the area, and the rest of Canmore, comes into effect May 4 and runs until Oct. 2.

It offers 50 parking stalls at various sites throughout Canmore that can be used for overnight van parking, between 8 p.m. and 9 a.m. the next day.

The stalls will be in scattered sites and grouped into five.

Canmore will provide five municipal lots for the program; the other five lots will be provided by private owners.

The confirmed municipal spaces where this parking will be offered are:

  • Elk Run Ball Diamond parking lot.
  • The back lot at Elevation Place.
  • The front lot at artsPlace.
  • Behind the EC development building.
  • Behind Panago Pizza.

Private stalls are being considered at Trinity Bible Church, Save-On-Foods and Our Lady of the Rockies Parish, said Tara Gilchrist, family and community support services supervisor, speaking at the Canmore council meeting on Feb. 4.

Those using these stalls will be charged $10 per night and receive a parking permit that they must pre-pay for two weeks, which they can renew bimonthly.

To take part in the program, one must also:

  • Be employed in the Bow Valley.
  • Have a valid driver's licence and vehicle registration and insurance.
  • Have a working vehicle.

There will be washroom facilities provided, quiet hours enforced, waste regulations, behavioural expectations and onsite security during the evening hours.

The program will be used as a marker for what works and what doesn't and will be analyzed, according to the Town of Canmore website.

There are negotiations ongoing for a subsidized camping program at the Wapiti Campground with the same eligibility criteria.

In council last Tuesday, Canmore Mayor John Borrowman commended Gilchrist on her "creative" approach to the situation for those who choose to live in their vans and are employed.

However, he pressed her on what the solution was for those who may not be employed and live out of their vehicles.

"Typically those are the folks that fall between the cracks here," he said.

Gilchrist responded that, where possible, they try to connect those people to help and resources and will continue to do so.

Dan Markey chooses to live out of his RV and says he prefers this lifestyle. (Supplied by Dan Markey)

Life in Vanmore

Dan Markey has chosen to live and work out of his RV in Canmore for the past two years. It's a lifestyle he's been living in for seven years, and he's done it successfully in Australia, New Zealand and now Canada.

"It's … the lifestyle I like to live, it's something I can't really describe. I love listening to the sound of the rain on the roof, it's just the most peaceful thing," Markey told the Calgary Eyeopener.

He said there are many reasons people may live out of their vans. Some are travellers, some are on working holiday visas and many are Canadians trying to avoid the exorbitant cost of living in the Bow Valley.

Markey said he's "very optimistic about the program" and "open to trial of it." But he does plan to speak to those implementing it and offering his perspective.

Markey takes issue with the assumption that the area he lives in is unsafe.

I don't think the Town of Canmore is too concerned about our safety. I think they're more concerned that we're living for free and not paying anything.- Dan Markey, Vanmore resident

"I don't think the Town of Canmore is too concerned about our safety. I think they're more concerned that we're living for free and not paying anything," he said.

"I think we're perfectly safe as we are at the minute."

He believes the town is motivated to make money out of the spaces the stalls take up during the day, due to the new paid parking program in the town.

Logistically, he said, the pilot program just won't work for some of their vehicles as they are longer than a typical van.

Though 50 stalls are designated for the Safe Overnight Parking Pilot Program, he said there are six to 10 people in the same situation he is in. He said he expects more to need the stalls come warmer weather.

"Maybe that will put some of the rest of the town's mind at easy now that we're paying $10 a night. We're not going to be called squatters anymore," said Markey.

Until the program comes into effect, the rules for the area known as Vanmore prohibit parking between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Vehicles there must be in working order, have current provincial registration and updated insurance.

With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.


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