Do you remember my recent post on “locking up nature“?
It was pointed out to me by a reader that perhaps there is a reason why locked gates were set up at either end of the lovely pathway next to one of Penticton’s little wild spots in the midst of a residential area. So I have checked out the situation, and it turns out that indeed there is a good, if rather sad, reason.
Yesterday I had a long chat with one of the residents of the new tower next to the wild green space. Here’s what I learned:
First of all, my assumption about the cost of the condos was incorrect. As a matter of fact, because of the recession, the prices of condos around Penticton has fallen rather dramatically. Many towers were under construction when the hard economic times hit, and sales came to a rather screeching halt. The prices of units in the tower next to the green space now range from under $200,000 to a maximum of about $400,000 – even for the penthouse suites! So if you’re looking for lovely new condos with 6 appliances, generously sized balconies, and upgrade finishes, at a very reasonable price, you might want to check these ones out.
Second, the folks who have already bought condo units (starting just this past October) themselves decided to put in the walkway, which is actually on the tower’s property. They wanted to create easy and safe access to the park to the west, and the mall to the east, for the condo owners. Many of these new owners are seniors who have mobility issues, and the path was created so they could easily enjoy these aspects of the community. At the same time, they hoped that other Penticton residents would also be able to enjoy the wild little green space next to the tower. And at first, their hopes were realized. Owners had easy access to the park and mall, and many local residents, young and old, families and singles, walked the path every day. The gentleman I spoke with lives in one of the units that overlooks the path and green space, and he told me how enjoyable it was to sit out on their balcony as folks walked by enjoying the path, and waving up to them, chatting with them, and thanking them for creating the path. BUT…
Unfortunately, there were a few people who ruined it for everyone. A group of teenagers found the path and decided to make it their hangout. Every evening they would go to a local fast-food joint, buy lots of take-out, and head over to the path. Now next to the path, the tower has two doors and a patio with seating for owners who wish to enjoy the lovely green area. It seems that these youngsters thought it the perfect place to hang out. And not just to hang out, but also to leave a huge pile of garbage for the tower caretaker to clean up every morning. And make lots of noise, disturbing the condo residents who were trying to sleep. And, worst of all, causing a lot of destruction. Broken bottles soon littered the area. Swastikas and filthy language were sprayed across the side of the building. Both doors were damaged. Residents were afraid to use the exits by the path to leave the building.
Although the condo owners hated to do it, they finally came to the conclusion that the path would have to be gated and locked. They felt badly for cutting off access to the community. But it’s not just the community who suffers. The residents themselves no longer have the safe and easy access to the park and mall through their very own building exits, and must now use the parking lot and street-level exits above, which also causes special difficulty for residents living on the bottom floor. Yes, they can now sit safely on the patio, and yes, they no longer have to face the filth, noise, and nasty graffiti. The caretaker has done his best to cover the damage, but passersby can still see the outline of the swastika, as the paint deeply penetrated the concrete.
You might think that is the end of the story. But sadly, no. Some of the young people still want to hang out in the area. Unable to use the pathway, they are now using the creek bed, which is mostly dry during the summer and fall months. If you look at the pictures in my original article, you will see the odd bit of litter, most of it light bits of paper and such which may simply have blown in with the wind. But now, just 2 or 3 weeks later, the path is much more littered. There are spots where it is obvious that parties are being held – and the noise is once again disturbing residents in towers on each side of the green space. Also, a little to the west, nearer Lion’s park, the youth are partying under the big old weeping willows, and not only are those spots being littered with bottles and food containers, there is also toilet paper and the stink of urine. These are not over-night transients camping; these are the same youth who were hanging out on the lovely new path.
About a week ago, some of these same youth were blowing off fireworks in the mall parking lot late in the evening. When the police arrived, the youth ran across the street and hid in the bushes. The police had to go in with flashlights to flush them out. Most of them ran off, but at least one got caught. He tossed his skateboard over the fence, and climbed over, apparently planning to run to the end of the path and escape. However, he must have forgotten that there are now locked gates at either end – and he ended up trapped! An ironic reminder, perhaps, that what we do usually catches up with us sooner or later, and often in surprising ways.
When I wrote the last post about this “locking up nature” situation, one commenter on Facebook wrote the following: “This is where the general public needs to contact their city council and ask for more park trails 🙂 start a petition!” What do you think? What can responsible citizens do together to end wanton damage and hooliganism by just a few (and that includes adults as well as young people) who choose to ruin things for everyone else? What are your ideas? Why not list them in the comments below? Let’s get into action and do something together. Surely the majority can overcome the minority if we stand together.
By the way, the gentleman I was speaking with noted that another community in BC has recently re-started the old 9 pm curfew that many communities (including large cities like Vancouver and surrounding cities) used to have, and that early indications show a significant drop in night-time problems. While we were chatting, another local resident came by and suggested that, much as we love our little wild tangled green spots, maybe if the city cleared some of the underbrush, the areas wouldn’t be as inviting to people looking to hang-out and/or hide. Then of course there are possibilities like putting in more lighting. What do you think of any of these as possible solutions? Or can you think of other solutions? What about a strengthened Community Watch program? What else? What are YOU willing to do?
Please comment! Thanks!