Mark’s Nature Park at 124 Finholm St. in Parksville has seen an influx of homeless individuals camping. - Karly Blats photo

Parksville residents concerned about garbage, needles in Mark’s Nature Park

City pays to have Finholm Street park cleaned up each week

Neighbours of Mark’s Nature Park in Parksville are concerned about an influx of people camping and leaving behind garbage.

One neighbour, who asked not to be named, told The NEWS that individuals are defecating and leaving needles in the Finholm Street park, behind causing health hazards for the general public.

The neighbour said he’s noticed about a dozen or so campers each morning in the park for several months.

B.C. Supreme Court legislation directs municipalities on how to regulate overnight camping in public spaces. Local governments cannot enact prohibitions on overnight accommodation on public lands by people who are homeless. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms grants a constitutional right to someone who finds themselves homeless, allowing them to erect a temporary shelter on public lands in order to sleep during the night.

RELATED: Parksville council, staff debate homeless camping in public spaces

A City of Parksville bylaw states a homeless person may take up overnight accommodation and erect and occupy a temporary shelter in a park between the hours of 7 p.m. and 9 a.m. There are several rules individuals must follow when camping in a park including not abandoning possessions, debris or any other article for a period of more than 24 hours.

“There are definitely issues with Mark’s Nature Park with homeless individuals in the park. City bylaw compliance is working closely with the RCMP to follow and enforce the bylaw,” said City of Parksville manager of communications Deb Tardiff. “People must be packed up, ready to leave the park at 9 a.m. and cannot leave their belongings in the park. Anything that remains is immediately removed and disposed of.”

City bylaw compliance officers removed materials on June 25 and a contractor was called to remove the remainder of items.

Tardiff said bylaw officials are at the park every day, multiple times, and that it costs the city $160 each time a contractor is called to clean up the park. That has taken place twice so far this week and three times last week.

“Through the RCMP, we are aware that thefts have gone up significantly in the past couple weeks in that area,” Tardiff said.

RELATED: Outreach group ordered to stop feeding homeless on City of Parksville property

Oceanside RCMP Cpl. Jesse Foreman said between Jan. 1, 2018 and June 25, 2018, the Oceanside RCMP received 10 calls for service in the area of Mark’s Nature Park and the immediate surroundings. This year between Jan. 1 and June 25, the RCMP received 31 calls for service for the same area.

Foreman said RCMP members are in Mark’s Nature Park every day working with City of Parksville bylaw compliance officers to make sure campers are packed up by 9 a.m.

“Basically how it works is that people are allowed to camp in that park,” Foreman said. “The deal is they’re supposed to be up and it’s supposed to look like there’s no trace of them camping there at 9 a.m.”

Foreman said unfortunately, RCMP members are collecting all kinds of garbage at the park every day.

“It’s frustrating but we are working close with bylaw,” Foreman said. “The problem is if we don’t stay vigilant with this it will become a full-on encampment and I don’t think that’s what the general public wants.”

RELATED: Parksville residents furious after needles found near playground in community park

Although sometimes people aren’t completely packed up by 9 a.m. every morning, Foreman said RCMP members have had good compliance with individuals camping in the park.

“Normally it’s the chief of police that’s down there in the morning, he makes it part of his patrol and we’re trying our best to work with these people and get it all tidied up,” Foreman said. “Bylaw is now bringing actual garbage bags down and helping with that. If [campers] don’t identify that it’s their property, often they won’t, then bylaw has to bring in a truck and haul [items] out. We have to make sure that it’s cleaned up every day for the safety of everyone.”

Foreman said Oceanside RCMP members are not driving homeless people to Mark’s Nature Park and dropping them off there.

“That said, if somebody was in distress or at the hospital and [an officer] said, ‘where are you going for the night?’ and they say ‘I’m camping at the park,’ and we were giving them a ride just like we would to their home, maybe we would drop them off there if that’s where their tent was,” Foreman said. “We’re not seeking that particular park as a place to drop people off.”

karly.blats@pqbnews.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Just Posted

RCMP: No timeline for update on fatal hit-and-run in Parksville

Complexity of case a factor in length of the investigation

Parksville wants consultant to examine feasibility of rec centre

Strong demand from residents for a multi-sport facility

Developers withdraw rezoning application for huge Parksville waterfront plan

IAG to create new draft after processing public feedback

Parksville youngsters design problem-solving robot

Lego robotics team gearing up for gold in Victoria competition

VIDEO: Trudeau asks Canada to look to current, not past, actions on race

Liberal leader says he never spoke about the racist photo because he was embarrassed

Island contestant competes on Great Canadian Baking Show

Andrea Nauta auditioned for the show before but was lucky second time around

VIDEO: B.C. man accused of assaulting sex worker loses temper in interrogation

Defence lawyer says statements made by accused Curtis Sagmoen should be deemed inadmissible

Nanaimo beekeepers take down nest of invasive giant hornets

One nest eradicated at Nanaimo’s Robins Park, but there are still Asian giant hornets around

John Horgan promises action after fatal mid-Island bus crash

Premier cites students, local Indigneous community as reason to repair the road

Teens charged in stabbing death of B.C. man in strip mall parking lot

Two youths, aged 15 and 16, charged in Aug. 16 killing of South Surrey’s Paul Prestbakmo

B.C. Premier John Horgan worried about ‘rise of racism’ in Canada

Asked to comment on Justin Trudeau’s ‘blackface’ incidents

Human case of West Nile virus reported on Vancouver Island

B.C. Centre for Disease Control confirmed case reported in August

Forestry watchdog warned B.C. government about Bamfield Road in 2008

Ombusman’s specific concerns re-surface in wake of bus crash that killed two students

Most Read