DND gets tough on trespassers

DND is stepping up their authority to keep civilians out of the rifle range in Nanaimo.

Despite well placed “No Trespassing” signage, people continue to use the DND property as recreation land.

The threat of fines and court appearances has garnered the attention of local media and vocal opposition from mountain biking, running and hiking groups who trespass on the federal property along the Westwood Ridge.

With safety in mind, DND has placed additional barbed wire fences to keep the public out, and increased patrols.

The range has been used by the military, RCMP, the B.C. Rifle Association and other private groups since the 1920s.

Two weeks ago, Base Public Affairs officer, Lt(N) Michael McWhinnie met with CTV Vancouver Island at the range to inform the public on this safety issue.

“We are asking for a change in the behaviour of specific groups that knowingly trespass upon DND property,” said Lt(N) McWhinnie. “The Nanaimo Range is a restricted access military training area where live ammunition is used, which is clearly identified on regional maps. Any unauthorized access to the property constitutes an illegal act, and it is unsafe.”

The military needs to conduct necessary training in an environment that is free of public risk, due to the inherent danger of weapons firing.

This eight-kilometre range is licensed to fire up to 7.62 millimetre ammunition from weapons ranging from pistols to machine guns.

“Bullets have the ability to travel anywhere in this danger template,” explains MWO Bill Murphy, range control officer for CFB Esquimalt.

Situated near the Morrell Nature Sanctuary and Westwood Lake, the Nanaimo Range is a geographically remote area and has been used by civilians as a short cut to the Mount Benson lookout station.

“About five or six years ago there was a (one-time only) non-military use agreement signed to have the Nanaimo Mountain Bike Club traverse through our property for a race,” said MWO Murphy.

“Since then, it’s become popular to hikers and bikers and they have established trails through the range.”

Several trespassers have been warned, but said they didn’t hear any firing at the time so thought it was safe to enter.

There have never been authorized public trails in the Nanaimo Range.

DND is planning to build a bigger fence to surround the range and take legal actions against trespassers.

MWO Murphy said the use of the range is sporadic, so people cannot know when it is safe to venture onto the property, putting them at great risk. This month it will be used 15 days.

Shelley Lipke, Staff Writer

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  1. Marc Moriez says:

    What part of private land, do not trespass do you not understand? Its actually kind of simple..

  2. Bill says:

    Small corrections.

    1. The area in question is not “geographically remote.” In fact it abuts several of the most popular recreational areas in the region (Westwood Lake, Morrell Sanctuary, and Mount Benson).

    2. While it’s true the DND lands do disconnect much of the primary access to Mt. Benson – its use as a “short-cut” is not primary. The crown land in question is itself prime recreational terrain. Hikers, bikers, runners are drawn to this area for its beauty and for the extensive, challenging and interesting trail network.

    It’s true if the federal government wishes to preserve the gun range and doesn’t share the community interest in the recreational area, they can (and I assume will) enforce their rights. However, in disregarding these interests they may also be signalling that they do not see themselves as a part of the community.

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