Generator noise is extremely disturbing for tent campers. Campgrounds need to set and enforce boundaries.

  

It sounded like a truck was idling right outside our tent at 8:30 a.m.

BC Park’s official policy states generator use is permitted between the hours of 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., but no one was there to enforce the rules. I certainly wasn’t going to tell my campsite neighbour—who was overheard bragging, “Yeah, it’s loud, which is annoying, but I got it for a great price,” and admitting, “I just need my coffee in the morning”—to shut his generator off.

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My partner and I escaped from the city on two camping trips to Golden Ears and Green Lake this summer. We went camping to get away from noise pollution—not to be bombarded by it. Rather than listening to the rain drum on our tent or birdsong fill the air, we were forced to listen to Generator Man’s “noisy, but affordable” engine because he needed to charge his phone and brew his coffee.

(Funny—we brewed our own campsite coffee over a silent portable gas stove. I bet it was a lot cheaper than that generator.)

photoAlison Karlene Hodgins

Generator regulations differ in parks across Canada. Ontario Parks states, “the use of a generator is permitted provided that campers respect the 'No Excessive Noise' rule.” Alberta Parks reads, “constantly running generators is considered excessive noise UNLESS required for medical reasons. Please use your generator in moderation.” There is no common policy for Parks Canada, which oversees 48 parks nationally.

I spoke with Lindsay McPherson, the public relations and communications officer for Banff, Yoho and Kootenay national parks. "Generators are permitted in our front-country campgrounds and they may be operated between 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. and again in the evening between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.," McPherson said.

"Visitors generally can find this information before they arrive," she continued. "It's available on the reservation page when making a camping reservation, as well as on each park's website under the campground information and again in our important bulletin page. When they're actually in park, they will generally find this information at campgrounds that have a gate or kiosk when checking in. Everyone will receive that information."

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An RV with a generator may be the only safe way for some people with disabilities or health conditions to go camping. But for those with whom it isn't an accessibility issue, what's the solution for lessening noise pollution?

Parks could designate an area in each front-country campground for RVs and an area for tents. When booking, campers input the number of tents, RVs and vehicles they're bringing anyways, so separating generator-users from non-users may not be too difficult.

Another, more drastic option is to separate RVs and tents completely. We have designated dark-sky preserves—why not add quiet zones for car campers, too? Currently, if tent campers want to ensure no motorized noise pollution, they need to book designated walk-in sites or backcountry tent pads. Hiking in isn't a possibility for everyone.

Perhaps a less radical option is to put decibel maximums in place. Ashley Gales, the promotions officer for Lake Louise, Yoho and Kootenay Field Unit said, "We do not specify a decibel limit for generators. Based on the strict hours in which generators are allowed to operate, we have received very few complaints about misuse and often a friendly reminder is all that has been required to encourage compliance."

I asked Lindsay McPherson if policies are being revised or updated as more people use campgrounds during the pandemic. "If an issue were to persist or [we were] noticing a significant change in the type of camper. . . whether they're staying in an RV versus a tent, that’s something we would definitely look at and address," she said. "At this time, I don't believe it's something we're considering."

In any case, it's imperative to respect your neighbours and their space. After all, we're out here to enjoy the same thing: Canada's magnificent outdoors.

 

What do you think?

Should generators be banned? Policies updated? Tent campers suck it up?

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