McLean Creek leads in long-weekend charges

The McLean Creek area saw a 'significant' spike in Victoria Day long-weekend rowdiness, compared to relative calm in the rest of Alberta's southern parks, police said.

ATV traffic also takes toll on site

The McLean Creek area saw a "significant" spike in Victoria Day long-weekend rowdiness, compared to relative calm in the rest of Alberta's southern parks, police said.

The RCMP said in a release that they were "pleased that in all southern Alberta recreational areas the number of serious incidents, such as assaults, sexual assaults, arson and thefts had a dramatic decrease from the same period as 2007." 

The McLean Creek area, however, had a "significant" increase in the number of tickets issued, police said, noting that more than 450 of the roughly 600 violations written up in the southern areas were handed out in the area southwest of Calgary, where a busy campground is located near Bragg Creek.

Most of the tickets were traffic violations, with at least 100 issued by Monday, and related to the Gaming and Liquor Act. There were 11 arrests for intoxication and outstanding warrants and 20 charges of impaired driving.

There were also 17 drug charges laid in the region, which Cochrane RCMP Cpl. Ian Smith said was a noticeable increase. He said the charges were mostly linked to party drugs such as ecstasy and marijuana, which are becoming an increasing problem in McLean Creek.

"I've been in this area for some years now; anecdotally speaking I think the problem is rising in McLean," he said. "Our charges are up."

Additional officers deployed

Sgt. Patrick Webb said that the up to 20 extra officials on duty in the area paid off. 

"We did write a large number of tickets, there were a number of arrests, and there were vehicles seized and drugs charges laid, but at the same time the number of serious incidents is way down," he said.

Camper Trevor Walaper said he was surprised by how many parks officials and police officers were patrolling the trails.

"I thought a lot of it was actually overboard. Every time we turned around, we were going through a checkstop, getting stopped, even out on the trails," he said.

Webb added that it’s a fine balance to determine how many officers need to be on patrol.

"There's always a balance between the number of personnel we can bring in here from different police forces or our partner agencies, but we don’t want to make it a police state … that's something we really want to avoid," he explained.

"The vast majority of people here are here to enjoy the weekend. It is the first weekend of summer for most people, and it's an opportunity to get out there and enjoy the trees and enjoy the trails and that. We're concentrating on those people that are here to destroy it for everybody else whether it's the environment or any other situation."

The RCMP have promised to step up patrols of the campground throughout the summer.

ATVs wreak havoc on park

The provincial government said parts of the McLean Creek area were significantly damaged by off-road vehicles over the long weekend.

Ted Morton, the minister of sustainable resource development, said while he was generally pleased with campers' behaviour over the weekend, he is bothered by the destruction in the McLean Creek area, where meadows and trails were turned into huge quagmires.

"I think our respect the land education campaign of changing outdoor rec culture is working, I think generally there was more responsible behaviour with some exceptions made for certain people in McLean Creek," he said. 

Rick Blackwood, Sustainable Resource Development's area manager, said since there are no trail restrictions, the damage to the area is not illegal.

"It's allowable to use your off highway vehicle unless an area is physically posted as closed, so in most instances, those areas are open to be used."

Blackwood added that people don't seem to understand the damage caused by ATVs.

"The unfortunate part though is we've been working on our respect the land messaging for about the last three years trying to make people aware of the impact their off-highway vehicles can create," he said.

He said the province is looking at moving McLean Creek to a designated trail system, which would bar people from travelling over sensitive areas.

Morton said the region needs more campgrounds to help combat overcrowding, which he believes is one of the biggest factors leading to problems on long weekends.