Parties at the site include large fires. (Photo: Betsy Kline)

Pass Creek grad party fuels fears

Residents, fire departments and RCMP have concerns over large student gatherings

A Labour Day weekend grad party in Pass Creek has once again highlighted community fears about the gathering’s location and the activities that take place there.

It’s not just the neighbours that have concerns about the parties that see hundreds of youth gathering on Crown land at Upper Pass Creek Park multiple times a year. Local RCMP, fire departments and Regional District of Central Kootenay director Andy Davidoff all have serious concerns.

The most recent party took place on the eve of the first day of school. When local RCMP heard about the party, they put in a request for over-time hours to bring in an extra officer to monitor the situation at the party.

At a party that took place back in April, police stopped 400 vehicles headed to the area and seized a large amount of liquor from underage youth. Several impaired drivers were also taken off the road.

RELATED: Pass Creek grad party sends one to hospital

The party site is located in an area without cell service, with the only access being a winding, narrow road.

When the RCMP officer arrived at the party around 8 p.m. there were already 200 people and a large bonfire at the site.

Due to concerns over the fire because of the extremely dry conditions and the fact that the youth did not have proper means to control or extinguish the fire, a decision was made to shut the party down.

“Our primary concern is the party-goers’ safety and the public’s safety,” explained RCMP Sgt. Monty Taylor. “We try to focus on road safety, impaired driving and aggressive driving.”

One driver was taken off the road for impaired driving.

RDCK director Andy Davidoff has been fielding numerous calls and emails from his constituents who are fed up with the parties. For them, its not just a matter of kids being kids and old people complaining about loud music. They see the parties as a threat to their homes, their recreation areas, their hiking trails and their water supply.

RELATED: Pass Creek residents ask Castlegar grads to relocate parties

The threat of a fire being sparked from the bonfire, discarded cigarettes or hot vehicles is very real to them. They also feel threatened by the students themselves, and some have declined to have their names used for fear of retaliation.

Davidoff says that prior to the most recent party, the gate to the property was closed, chained and locked.

“They ripped out half of the gate and cut the chains,” said Davidoff.

Davidoff’s concerns extend beyond the property issues. He worries about alcohol poisoning, drug overdoses, car accidents and the fact that the lack of cell service in the area means a serious delay in calling for emergency services if something should go wrong.

“This is a very risky site,” said Davidoff.

“For me, the safety of the students and the safety of the community are equally important. We need to protect our communities, but we also need to find a way to keep our students safe.”

He would like to see more done in the schools to educate the students about the risks of these parties.

Davidoff’s constituents also have concerns because the parties take place on the banks of Norns Creek — the primary water source for Pass Creek and Robson residents. One resident reported collecting broken glass from the shoreline the day after the Labour Day party.

In a letter published by a coalition of Pass Creek residents last spring, condoms, tampons, piles of bowel movements, toilet paper and baby wipes have been scattered throughout the ball field, beach areas and in private yards at previous parties.

Davidoff has tried as many ways as he can think of to find a resolution for the problem including reaching out to police, fire departments and natural resource officers. He has also looked into what the regional district can do.

Because the party site is on Crown land, the solution is complicated.

Davidoff’s latest idea is to apply to the province for a license of occupation for the land in question, making it an RDCK regional park and conservation zone. The site would be administered by the Castlegar and District Recreation Commission.

All of the regional district’s park bylaws would then apply to the site.

The process for re-establishing the site as an operating park will take quite a while with the first step being research from regional district staff into all the steps necessary to establish the park and what would be necessary to maintain the park.

“At the end of the day, the only option that seems viable is having control of the park,” concluded Davidoff.

In the meanwhile, Davidoff would like to see involvement from grad committees, schools, and emergency services representatives in educating the students.

“All of us working together to mitigate harm to the community and the students.”

Davidoff just hopes something can be done before a tragedy occurs.

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Cigarette butts in dry grass are among items left behind when the party is over. (Photo: Betsy Kline)

The only way into the park is a narrow, windy road. (Photo: Betsy Kline)

The gate to the area was broken at the last party held there. (Photo: Betsy Kline)

Only half of the park gate remains. (Photo: Betsy Kline)

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