September 20, 2016 - 4:30 PM
KELOWNA - Nature parks without live-in care takers will be subject to increased crime, vandalism and bad behaviour, says a local parks advocate.
Nancy Holmes is decrying the decision by the Central Okanagan Regional District to end the tenancy of seven live-in caretakers at popular regional parks such as MIssion Creek and Bertram Creek.
“I’m really upset as a community member about leaving these parks vacant,” Holmes says, listing off the activities she believes will increase once the caretakers are gone at the beginning of December.
“Illegal camping, garbage dumping, drug use and paraphernalia all over the place. These are heavily wooded areas with lots of cover.”
Regional district communications officer Bruce Smith confirmed the plan to remove the seven care takers and replace them with security patrols but defended it as a realignment with current arrangements at 10 other regional parks.
“We made an operational decision to standardize our regional parks after-hours security program, bringing it in line with our existing security contract,” Smith said.
Also affected are Woodhaven Nature Conservancy and Reiswig, Kopje, Scenic Canyon and Gellatly Heritage regional parks.
Smith said the regional district thinks the level of security employed at the other ten parks, plus the efforts of volunteer parks ambassadors, will be effective in keeping the parks safe.
“This is something we have done for many years and is a practise followed by other local governments,” Smith said.
For her part, Holmes thinks the decision should have been made at the board level, instead of by staff, given its level of importance to public safety.
“None of the board members I talked to had ever heard of this,” she said.
Holmes concedes she’s not an expert at security but feels the parks closest to the urban centre are most at risk.
“Maybe there doesn’t have to be a contractor in every park but the ones closest to the city could have some serious problems,” she added. “There’s a level of oversight provided by the caretakers you won't get from security guards, knowing someone is there watching all the time.”
— This story was corrected for a spelling mistake at 8:43 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 21, 2016. Thanks to reader Lynne Stirling for pointing out the misspelling of the word paraphernalia.
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