The homes overlook Parksville Bay in what seems to be an idyllic location.
Just below the sunny decks of the houses on Sutherland Place, residents say illegal drug activity is rampant, constant and destroying their quality of life.
A group of residents who met with The NEWS this week said they have made hundreds of calls to the police — and almost as many to the city — about what’s going on in the ravine and beach beside and below their homes.
“I have seen them shooting up — a child of four found a needle down there,” said Sutherland Place resident Doneen Goff, OK with being identified in this story in spite of possible reprisals from the bosses of the drug dealers she sees ply their trade in the bushes below her deck. “Thank goodness it had a cap on it.”
The residents describe an organized drug-dealing operation, complete with lookouts on Island Highway. They say the dealing starts at 6:30 a.m. every morning.
“There are little kids they are dealing to,” said Goff. “One little boy looked about 10.”
It’s not only the drug dealing that has the residents concerned. People are camping in the bush below and beside their homes. There’s the accompanying garbage and at least one resident has had items stolen from the backyard.
Those who are using or dealing drugs, and others who may not be but are hanging out in the area, are also getting a little too close for comfort for the residents, even taking water from the taps on the outside of the houses.
“Now they are approaching our homes and that’s scary,” said another resident, who also asked her name not be published.
The residents say they continue to call the RCMP and the city on a daily basis.
“They (people in the ravine and bushes) either duck into the bush or tuck their stuff away and hang out like they are just enjoying the beach,” said Goff. “They know the police can’t get here in time.”
Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman said officers have “been there dozens of times.” He said police haven’t made an arrest related to drugs at that location.
Foreman also said a senior RCMP officer attended the scene with Mayor Marc Lefebvre and someone from the city’s bylaw department and Foreman said he believed a plan was in the works.
Booting people out of public spaces has become a little trickier since the city passed a bylaw allowing camping in all but a few parks.
“Our authority to just kick people out of a public park has changed dramatically,” said Foreman.
It’s not clear if this location is in the “sensitive area” along the Parskville waterfront where overnight camping is prohibited according to a contentious bylaw passed by council in April.
Goff said she believes the city could help reduce the problem by clearing some of the brush that provides the dealers and others with cover. The brush in question is on city land between the high-tide mark and the property lines of the residences.
Mayor Marc Lefebvre has spoken with residents and he has visited the area at their request.
“We wanted to do some major clearing and we were getting ready to put the tender out in June,” Lefebvre said this week. “But the Ministry of Lands and Forests wanted us to make changes. We didn’t agree with those changes.”
“It (the clearing of the brush) would have been done. Everyone else (other government ministries) said OK but not them.”
Lefebvre said he will be raising this specific issue with Minister of Lands and Forests Steve Thomson at the Union of B.C. Municipalities annual conference later this month in Vancouver.
In the meantime, Goff said she is starting to re-think her contact with the users and dealers who ply their trade around her house.
“I’m fed up with it so I go face-to-face with them,” she said. “But my husband is worried about my safety.”