Safety concerns are prompting calls for lighting at Brown Drive Park in Ladysmith.
Ladysmith council voted last week to find out how much it costs to turn the lights on at the park after hearing concerns about what happens in the dark park. At the Oct. 20 council meeting, councillors received a letter from Cheri Mactier, who asked the Town to consider hooking up the lights in the park before tragedy strikes.
In her letter, Mactier, who has lived across from Brown Drive Park for about 13 years, spoke about regularly cleaning up garbage and empties after the many parties at the park, being kept awake by the noise from people partying at the park and about vandalism to the playground, gate and picnic tables.
“I have had to call the police on occasion because it was hard to detect if the screaming coming from the park was one of urgency or just drunkenness,” she wrote. “This has gone on for far too long.”
Mactier also addressed council during the meeting, explaining how she had to call the police on the previous Friday night when there were anywhere from 25 to 45 kids in the park and loud music coming from a car parked in front of the park. She noted that when the kids see police arrive at the park, they often run in to the dark woods.
“There are three lamp standards, two in the back corner of the park and one in the front, and I don’t understand why the lights haven’t been turned on,” she said. “I feel like if the lights were on, it would discourage the kids from hanging out in the park.”
Coun. Steve Arnett wondered if parents know what their kids are doing, noting we all have a responsibility for the town’s children and teenagers.
“Young people are always going to be testing limits, and that’s part of it, but what you’re describing is really intolerable, quite frankly,” he said. “The kids have often gone down to Transfer Beach, and kids will always find a place to gather and experiment a little bit, but that doesn’t sound like experimentation anymore — it sounds like a very unsafe situation for the kids, especially if kids are drinking and flaked out on lawns, there’s the potential for alcohol poisoning. The running from police or yourself into the woods, that’s a dangerous situation for sure.”
Staff recommended that council refer Mactier’s letter to the RCMP for investigation and recommendation for resolving the issues she raises.
Coun. Duck Paterson, a member of the Ladysmith Kinsmen Club that built the playground, wanted the lights turned on right away. He shared two letters from the Ladysmith RCMP, written in 2011 and 2013, which recommend lighting at the park.
Paterson also provided a note from Ladysmith Fire/Rescue Chief Ray Delcourt, stating that not having lighting in the area of Brown Drive Park can be a problem.
“I appreciate staff’s recommendation, but the Kinsmen have tried to get the lights in there, those lights have cost nothing, and they just need to be turned on,” said Paterson.
Mayor Rob Hutchins explained the Town must notify the neighbourhood before making any changes. In the past, at least one neighbour has objected to turning the lights on.
“I think it’s the right move, but there’s a process,” he said.
Coun. Gord Horth felt it was time to act, saying council needs to be concerned about the safety of younger children using the playground the morning after these parties.
In the end, council voted to refer the letter to the RCMP and asked staff to report back as soon as possible with recommendations for the process, cost and timelines to complete the installation of the lights.