The organizer of a First Nations cultural event will ask authorities to remove any Juniper Beach campers who don't willingly leave the provincial park.
"I have the right to use the park and I got a letter from the parks board giving me that right," Steve Basil told The Daily News. "If they (campers) refuse (to leave) I will have to get the authorities to remove them."
Basil originally asked that the park be closed to paying customers Thursday night because he planned to host traditional ceremonies there the following morning, he said.
It was only through negotiations with BC Parks officials that Basil agreed to extend the deadline until noon Friday and postpone the ceremonies until the next morning.
And Basil said his guests won't be paying to use the park either.
"It's a traditional area. We don't have to pay," he said.
That's because the province has an agreement with First Nations that allows bands to use provincial parks free of charge. Environment Minister Terry Lake said. First Nations have used a provincial park at Okanagan Falls for cultural events since the 1990s.
Lake sat down with Basil on Wednesday and doesn't anticipate any trouble at Juniper Beach on Friday, saying Basil seems reasonable.
But he said extra BC Parks staff will be there for the noon deadline to talk to anyone who refuses to leave.
A small group of campers told The Daily News earlier this week that they have no intention of abandoning a campsite they paid for, even if BC Parks gives them a refund.
The majority of the campers at this time of year are seniors.
RCMP are aware of the gathering, but don't plan to attend on Friday. Sgt. Michel Grondin said police will only respond if laws are broken or public safety is at risk.
Basil, a member of the Bonaparte Indian Band, understands campers are upset that they've been asked to leave the campsite, located near Savona, while he hosts a three-day cultural gathering.
But the land is an ancestral meeting and food-gathering place and they have the right to use it as they wish, he said.
"There's no apology for wanting to use our area for traditional use and ceremonies. It is, after all, a gathering place for our people," said Basil.
He envisioned the gathering as a private event with traditional dances and ceremonies. There's no need for the public to be present, he said.
Basil spent months organizing the event and sending out invitations to some 30 First Nations bands. He said an anticipated 200 people will attend and pledges it will be drug-and-alcohol free.
Lake said parks staff will be present to ensure public health and safety.
BC Parks claims Basil sent out his invitations prior to notifying the province. Given that 200 people are expected to attend Juniper Beach on the weekend, and in respect of First Nations practices, parks officials decided it was best to accommodate and close the site for the three days.
Basil isn't sure if his invitations were sent out before or after he first contacted BC Parks officials.
Lake said he's committed to working with Basil so future events can be planned with little or no disruption to park users.
Basil hopes to host more gatherings and is open to having non-First Nations attend, he said.