If there’s an advantage to these Albertans, it’s difficult to see it through the trash, toilet paper and destruction.

“Sadly, it’s a poor reflection on our neighbours to the East,” is how Heath Slee put it, in the most diplomatic way the East Kootenay area director can muster.

If those left to clean up the wilderness camping area south of Fernie could speak more openly, you can bet their words would be almost as filthy as what their Alberta neighbours have left behind.

They have every right to be angry.

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It’s a despicable, shameful mess, especially if you share a home province with the dozens of hard-drinking dimwits who crossed over into B.C. for the May long weekend, setting up camp along Lake Koocanusa in an area of Crown land.

Free camping quickly turned into a chaotic free-for-all for these disrespectful fools, easily identified by their Alberta licence plates.

As well as piles of trash, abandoned camping gear and spent beer cans, the normally-pristine forest was littered with enough human waste and toilet paper to fill a bank of porta potties.

“I just went out to have a look around, and I can tell you, it’s a hell of a mess,” said Slee, the elected director for Electoral Area B.

“It’s young adults predominantly, and anybody with half a sense wouldn’t be camping and leaving a mess like that, showing such disrespect for the land.”

Perhaps worst of all, perfectly healthy trees were hacked down in what can only be an act of drunken vandalism — and that can’t be cleaned up, no matter how hard locals work in returning their forest to usable condition.

Slee is currently rounding up a posse to clean up the destruction — and he says this has become reoccurring long-weekend headache for those living nearby, ever since Alberta cracked down on similar dunce-cap debauchery in its own wilderness.

“Absolutely, that’s what’s happened here — it’s all come out to B.C. as a result of the stricter rules implemented in Alberta,” said Slee.

“I guess we’re a little bit behind the eight ball here and we need to get a lid on this, because it’s getting out of hand.”

Seven years ago, it was Alberta’s Crown land and provincial parks left in tatters, after twits of similar mindset destroyed wilderness and wetlands with off-road vehicles, leaving mattresses, trash and wrecked cars behind.

The next year, the province fought back, banning booze and sending officers out on a back-country blitz that resulted in nearly 1,000 fines, and more hassle than a crowd of drunken rowdies could bear.

Soon, it was all quiet in Alberta — and those who desire garbage and destruction with their weekend weenie roast were forced to move on.

Unfortunately for Lake Koocanusa, the Fernie area is a convenient drive from southern Alberta.

Touring around the zone on Saturday, Slee said it looked like a landfill, and was a hive of dirt-biking, drinking activity.

“Even as I’m cruising by, there’s a guy with a drink in his hand, and he finished it and just threw it in the bush,” said Slee.

“I can’t understand some of these folks.”

While most in the worst-hit Koocanusa zone appear to be from Alberta, Slee says there are B.C. residents making a similar mess nearby.

“This group was from Alberta, but you can’t tar them all with the same brush, and there are B.C. people just as guilty,” said Slee.

“It’s an age group. These were predominately from the Calgary area and southern Alberta, but some were from Elkford and Sparwood (B.C.).”

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Slee says the May long weekend waste zone has become an annual problem, but disrespectful campers are starting to impact the entire summer for people who used to treasure the area for beauty and tranquillity.

He plans to meet with the area MLA this week, seeking a similar crackdown to Alberta’s successful blitz.

“We need to copy some of the rules they have out in force in Alberta, and it’s time we start charging a fee to camp here, so at least we can pay to clean it up,” he said.

“Because right now, the locals are left with the mess.”

Source: michael.platt@sunmedia.ca

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