It may brag about offering Canada’s warmest welcome, but Osoyoos has withdrawn that hospitality from those who interfere with others’ enjoyment of the community’s parks and beaches.
In July, police and bylaw officers began issuing expulsion orders to the most unruly visitors that ban them from returning to parks and beaches until the end of September.
Osoyoos RCMP Sgt. Kevin Schur said “five or six” of the letters had been written as of last week, the first of which was handed to a local resident, while the rest were given to transients.
“This isn’t for somebody who just cracks a beer on the beach; this is for somebody that’s causing a big disturbance.”
He said one letter was issued after two Mounties were surrounded by a group of 20 to 30 people on a beach and forced to leave for their safety.
“Later, they were able to find the ringleader and issue them the appropriate bylaw ticket or warning and the letter,” Schur recounted.
“The people are causing this and they’ve escalated it. So if they act appropriately when the police are there and identify themselves and get their ticket, warning (or) whatever, then that will probably be the end of it,” he said.
“If they continue, they may be issued an expulsion letter off that one incident.”
The letters are issued under the town’s Parks and Community Facilities Regulations Bylaw, which specifies what behaviour will not be tolerated in public spaces and allows for indefinite expulsion for contraventions of those rules. Repeat offenders could end up in court and face a $10,000 fine.
Barry Romanko, the town’s chief administrative officer, said the bylaw was rewritten in 2011, but expulsions weren’t required until this summer when public complaints began to pile up.
“This year was an extremely difficult year for us,” Romanko said.
“There seemed to be a different edge on the people that were here. They were less compliant. Their actions were in fact more criminal in nature, socially disruptive.”
In addition to the use of expulsion letters, the town also used additional funds received through its resort municipality agreement with the B.C. government to step up patrols. That includes having a bylaw officer in the Gyro Park area everyday from noon until 10:30 p.m.
Romanko said the additional manpower will cost about $8,000, but it’s a good investment to protect the town’s reputation as a safe place for tourists.
“Actually, I think it is a really good idea,” said Alyssa Schroyer, a visitor from Wenatchee, Wash., who had a word with a bylaw officer during a visit Wednesday to an Osoyoos park.
“He talked to us about not smoking in public parks and was really nice, which is good especially for people who aren’t from the area and don’t know what the rules are,” Schroyer said. “I also think it’s good to have someone around in case there is anybody who is causing problems and bothering other people.”
With files from Mark Brett