Expect a $200 fine if you’re found by police in a city park after sunset, as Mounties ramp up patrols of Surrey parks.
In the past nine years, the number of people cited for infractions in Surrey parks has tripled, and those busted for being in a park after dark has skyrocketed by 2,200 per cent.
If you are surprised you can’t be in a park after dusk or before dawn, you may be equally shocked to learn you can’t fish or angle in any lake or stream (except in designated areas), according to Surrey Bylaw no. 13480.
If you want to play tennis, lawn bowling, shuffleboard or any other game on a court, proper footwear must be worn.
There is no golf allowed in Surrey parks and no use of remote-controlled aircraft or cars within Surrey parks.
No beer or any other alcohol is permitted in Surrey parks “at any time.”
Selling any refreshments within a city park is verboten, and you can’t feed the birds.
If you have a dog with you, it cannot splash around in any body of water in Surrey parks, including at beaches, except in an area designated for such activity.
And if you want to hold a meeting or a ceremony in a park on a lovely sunny afternoon, don’t even try it without the proper permission.
In all, the number of fines handed out in Surrey parks since 2005 has tripled.
Nine years ago, 257 tickets were issued. That has grown steadily to 791 citations last year.
While police and city officials say the vigilance is needed to help prevent crime and keep the peace, some citizens say the shift is heavy-handed.
It was 35 degrees Celsius last summer when 75-year-old Renata Hrdy allowed her leashed American Eskimo to wade into Green Timbers Lake to cool off.
A bylaw officer approached and warned her she faced a $200 fine for allowing her dog to wade into the water.
While she was walking seven-year-old Gabby, she saw plenty of other problems, including dog poop left on the trails, fishing line and hooks strewn through the lake and even a woman washing her baby’s dirty bum at the water’s edge.
“I was angry, of course, my dog was on the leash. I couldn’t believe it,” Hrdy said. “All the time, nothing is done about anybody else, about what anybody else is doing.”
Christopher Lewis has been warned and ticketed for walking in the park at night.
He says it’s strange that law-abiding citizens are getting tagged, while the unwanted element seems to get a free ride.
“They’re not letting citizens not up to criminal activities enjoy them as evidenced by the fact I got a ticket for refusing to stop walking in the park at night,” he said. He said it’s ironic that the city is trying to build community atmosphere, while running people out of local parks at sundown.
“It just doesn’t make sense to me at all,” Lewis said. “It just sends a bad message all around about public safety and whether or not you’d want to live in Surrey. “
At least one city councillor has a problem with that.
“If the bylaw is being interpreted like that, then we have an issue,” said Surrey Coun. Barinder Rasode, who is running for mayor this fall.
As to the other bylaws, she said it’s probably about time they were scrubbed from the books.
“I think maybe it’s time we re-evaluate some of the bylaws we have on the books and strengthen others that need to be strengthened,” she said.
Coun. Linda Hepner, who chairs the city’s parks’ committee, said she fully supports the bylaw.
A member of the public who had been fined for being in the park after dark went to the committee two months ago and asked for changes to the bylaw.
The committee declined to change it.
“We get a lot of complaints about people lingering, or loitering, in parks after dark,” Hepner said. “It makes people uneasy.”
Hepner, who is also considering a run for the mayor’s chair this fall, said she’s supportive of the committee’s decision.
“There’s lots of places that after dark people could be utilizing that are not in the public places such as parks,” said Hepner. “My understanding is there were lots of parties in parks, fires down at the beach, so they instituted the dusk (rule). And so far it has served us well.”
Last week, Surrey RCMP announced a crackdown in city parks over the next several months.
Police say with warmer weather coming, a blitz of city green spaces is under way.
“We will be out making sure that people use the parks in a safe, law-abiding manner so that everyone can enjoy our city’s green spaces this summer,” said Surrey RCMP Sgt. Dale Carr.
Mounties and Surrey bylaw officers are expected to be engaged in the blitz from May until October.
In addition to a $200 fine for being in a park after dark, those found in possession of open liquor or consuming liquor in a public place may also face a fine of up to $230.
The number of tickets handed out to people for being in Surrey parks after dark has skyrocketed since 2005.
Nine years ago, 16 people were cited for being in a park after dark or before dawn. That figure climbed incrementally until 2011, when it shot up to 130.
Then in 2012, there were 350 tickets issued, and last year, 314.
The fines represents about $70,000 in annual revenue for Surrey.
Police say the crackdown is necessary to get in front of problems such as public nuisance, property damage, drug use, graffiti, and other suspicious activity.
Typically, police respond to public complaints.
To report any illegal activities in the city’s parks or other areas, contact the Surrey RCMP’s non-emergency number at 604-599-0502 or make a report online. In case of an emergency, call 911.
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