September 19, 2013 - 11:23 AM
VERNON - Authorities have been faced with the complex issue of policing a park that isn’t really a park, and are turning to the community for answers.
Rose Swanson Mountain, which is all Crown land, has been a source of conflict for area residents who disagree with some of the activities that go on there—partying, campfires, off-road vehicles, and weapons being discharged. In response to their concerns, the Township of Spallumcheen is writing a letter asking the Ministry to review its plan for the area.
“If more can be done to enhance opportunities for use by respectful users, it may help discourage some of the unacceptable actions that are taking place by those disrespectful users,” Spallumcheen administrator Greg Betts wrote in a report to council.
But that’s only part of the solution, because some of the so-called “disrespectful users” are completely within their right, according to a coordinator with the Safe Communities unit.
Warren Smith, rural programs coordinator, says camping, and many of the activities that accompany it, are permitted on Crown land.
“Individuals are allowed to use all terrain vehicles, maintain their own campsite, have a fire—there’s nothing stopping them from consuming alcohol,” Smith says.
It’s when those individuals are underage, drinking and driving, shooting firearms or engaging in otherwise dangerous activities that they begin treading on the law.
Smith says a heightened police or Citizens Watch presence in the area isn’t necessarily the answer to deterring unwanted activities at Rose Swanson Mountain.
“It’s a community issue and we need a community solution,” Smith says.
The Pleasant Valley High School principal has already spoken to students about the dangers of bush partying and the city has replaced the 70 km/h speed sign on Chamberlaine Road to 50 km/h, encouraging drivers to slow down. Smith would also like to see students get involved with trail maintenance to harbour respect for the area. Most importantly, he’s encouraging residents to contribute to the solution by forming a Block Watch.
“We’ve had some very successful programs,” Smith says. “It helps to create an understanding of what a reportable incident is, and what information should be collected for police.”
The Citizens Watch will continue, but with no increase in patrols, Smith says.
“Overall, there needs to be some ownership so everyone has a role,” Smith says.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013