The costs and options for increasing security in Ganges parks will be investigated by Salt Spring’s parks and rec department.
Parks and Recreation Commission members made the decision at their Jan. 19 meeting in response to unruly behaviour that has been on the rise in the past year, especially in Centennial Park.
“The downtown community parks have become a place that attracts or enables offending behaviour due to informal management practices and little surveillance,” states a PARC staff report in explaining the rationale for taking action. “Public trust and perception in the parks being a safe place is being undermined by the lack of control and not addressing the antisocial behaviour.”
Items to be costed include surveillance cameras and lighting in Centennial Park, a seasonal full-time bylaw enforcement officer and an education and reporting campaign.
All commission members did not agree with putting more resources towards crime prevention in the park.
Brian Webster said he did not object to looking into the options as described but observed that the problem seemed to be exacerbated by COVID-19, with fewer people using Centennial Park since the pandemic struck.
“I would just caution everybody to resist the temptation to leap into a potentially expensive and heavy-handed kind of enforcement approach,” said Webster.
“I don’t want to see us get to a point where a significant amount of the PARC budget is dedicated to enforcement against bad behaviour in Ganges.”
Electoral area director Gary Holman said some improvement has occurred. For example, he said, stepped-up Centennial Park enforcement activities had potentially had an impact, along with a proactive approach taken by new RCMP detachment commander Clive Seabrook.
“We are struggling with the issue, quite honestly, but we are making some progress,” Holman said.
He was also hopeful that if Salt Spring Community Services is successful in its bid to acquire 24-hour funding for its shelter, then some people currently gathering in the parks might be more inclined to spend time at the shelter instead of outside in town.