Trails 'unsafe' for residents due to illicit activity: deputy mayor
© Derek Montague
It is not uncommon to see areas in the woods surrounding Happy Valley-Goose Bay littered with trash, beer bottles and clothing, as several groups of people tend to congregate throughout the warm summer months. This area was found behind Hotel North Two and The Labrador Inn.
It's a problem in Happy Valley-Goose Bay every summer.
Hidden amongst the trees within the municipality, several people gather, light a fire, drink, and get high off drugs. In the process, they also litter the area, and the surrounding trails, with old clothes, beer bottles, and food containers.
According to Deputy Mayor Stanley Oliver, some residents who would like to use the trails in the wooded areas of town feel unsafe because of the drinking and other activities that occur.
"I make no bones about it. I'm sorry if I insult people, but this is not the activity we want in our community and people feel unsafe," said Oliver. "I've had numerous calls about people walking up the bike trail feeling unsafe and I'm not going to make any joke about it - we know what some of these undesirable activities are. Its drinking and ;other thing'."
The RCMP in Happy Valley Goose Bay is also aware of the problem. According to Corporal Rick Mills, police officers routinely catch people drinking and/or doing drugs in the woods around town.
"When our members go on patrol - especially on the weekends - we usually go to those areas and if there's anybody in there drinking, or doing drugs or whatever, we usually move them on," he said. "We seize the alcohol or the drugs, whatever the case may be.
"If they are (too) intoxicated, we'll lodge them overnight in the cells for their own personal safety."
According to Mills, the majority of people who hang out in these areas are adults, and the most common activity is alcohol consumption.
Mills says that the RCMP usually finds groups of four or five at one time, but sometimes the groups can be as large as 20.
Neither Oliver nor Cpl. Mills could say for certain if these people are living outside during the summer, or if they just use the spots for drinking and socializing.
"I can't confirm whether or not they're actually homeless, but it's certainly an area where people go and congregate...it occurs throughout the community in certain areas," said Cpl. Mills.
There are several places near town where these activities are believed to occur, mainly near trails not far from stores and other businesses.
The Labradorian went to investigate three of the sites where these activities are said to take place. Although we did not find any people during our visits, it's clear from the mess and the litter that the places were being used as a gathering spot.
If you were to visit the trail across from Skipper Joe's in Spruce Park, you would find a mess of beer boxes, food wrappers, socks, and even discarded underwear.
In the woods behind Scotia Bank there are dozens of clothing items scattered around, along with beer boxes and food containers.
The woods behind Hotel North 2 and The Labrador Inn is a mess of broken beer bottles, beer caps, fast food containers, clothing items, and other junk.
According to Cpl. Mills, it's this general area where the RCMP find people congregating the most.
"The number one area would be behind The Labrador Inn and in behind Mulligan's Pub up on the bike trail."
Like the Town, the RCMP has serious concerns about the safety of those participating in the activities, as well as the safety of the general public.
"You never know what's going to happen when you have a group of people consuming alcohol in one area and it's not controlled," he said.
"In the walking trail, you have people that use that facility all the time... so we've got broken glass, you other things that occur in the area that someone could get injured."
Aside from the public intoxication and overall safety concerns created by this activity, the unsightly amount of litter is also a major issue.
According to Oliver, the Town has tried numerous times to clean up the areas where people have been gathering over the last several summers. But the mess of beer bottles, food containers and discarded clothes keeps coming back.
"The challenge is trying to keep it clean; it's repetitive. You clean it up one day and they're back there again. We have cleaned it up (before)," said Oliver.
"They just transfer the activity, you move them off one site, they go to another."
The repetitiveness of the activities is a problem for the RCMP as well. According to Cpl. Mills, it's usually the same individuals who are getting caught in the woods over and over again.
Now that fall is setting in, the problem will die down again until the weather begins to warm next year.
Oliver says next year, the Town may need to do more in combatting this problem.
"We can talk to other communities who have this going on...I think we can tighten up our by-laws...and I think we need to up our patrols," he noted.
Oliver also added some of these people might need to get help with certain problems, such as homelessness or addiction. If that's the case, he said, than Happy Valley-Goose Bay needs certain resources to combat those issues.
"We've always said, this town needs an addiction centre to deal with the population that participates in that kind of stuff," he said.
"If they are homeless people, somebody needs to help these people get homes. And if it's other activities going on; if they're partying, well they need to be dealt with."