OPP 'dismayed and alarmed' after teens overdose, cause thousands in damage at Rondeau Provincial Park
114 teenagers were thrown out of the park over the long weekend
An annual "rite of passage" where teens head to Rondeau Provincial Park to party during the May Two-Four weekend resulted in drug overdoses, thousands of dollars in damage and a sobering warning for parents from the OPP.
Park wardens and police cleared 19 campsites over the course of wild long weekend, throwing 114 teenagers out of the park in Chatham-Kent .
About 35 charges were laid over three days, mostly for trespassing and possession of alcohol, which is prohibited in provincial parks during Victoria Day weekend.
The charges include theft, mischief and damage to property after one of the park bathrooms sustained about $3,000 in damage.
One teen even decided to have a "wrestling match" with a park warden that resulted in an assault charge, according to Chatham-Kent OPP Detachment Commander Brian Knowler.
Over four days, two people were taken to hospital for drug overdoses, and another person had a case of alcohol poisoning.
"A lot of the parents are simply trusting that their kids are going to go out there, be safe and know what they're doing," Knowler said. "I think a lot of them would be shocked if they took a ride around the park with us one night."
Teens drink hard from dawn to dusk
Knowler said many of the teens are inexperienced drinkers who might not realize what they're getting into. He said one "very intoxicated" young man he spoke with told officers he started the day with a beer for breakfast, drank steadily while playing frisbee and passed out around 3 p.m. When he woke up he started drinking again.
"They start early as soon as they get to the campsite … and they drink hard, almost literally from dawn to dusk," Knowler explained."These kids make no bones about it, they hide their alcohol under their sleeping bags, they hide it in other bottles."
In a media release the OPP said they are "dismayed and alarmed" that underage people are getting alcohol so easily, adding social media posts over the weekend detailed "extremely high-risk behaviours."
A Twitter Feed with the handle @24confessions17 showcased examples of drinking and depravity, from burns to hickeys to sexual infidelity and pictures of teens passed out around the park.
Buddie was passed out on the picnic table and 2 phones by 10am <a href="https://t.co/5UUyxLtbgA">pic.twitter.com/5UUyxLtbgA</a>—@24confessions17
Knowler said many of the teenagers who were evicted told staff their booze was supplied by parents or older siblings, something he described as very troubling.
"That's extremely frustrating because there's a big difference between giving your child a glass of wine at dinner or a beer around your own backyard fire … and sending them out to a provincial park for a long weekend with alcohol in their hand."
Provincial police issued a reminder to parents and older siblings they can be fined up to $5,000 for providing alcohol to a minor, adding "enforcement officials don't view criminal acts as 'kids being kids' but as serious incidents that will be investigated and prosecuted."
Learnt my lesson from dancing barefoot by the campfire😬 <a href="https://t.co/xH31MYo3mc">pic.twitter.com/xH31MYo3mc</a>—@24confessions17
Still, Knowler said he was impressed by teens who took care of their friends by seeking medical assistance when they drank too much or accidentally stepped in the fire.
Compared to previous years where more than a hundred charges were handed out on the long weekend, Knowler said the force's decision to focus on "harm reduction" is working.
"My ultimate goal is to get to a point where there are no charges, no incidents and it's just a campground full of kids who just went to a campground to hang out with their buddies for the weekend," he said. "I'm not so naïve as to think that will ever happen, but the more we see things drop every year … the better."