Partying vandals being sought by authorities

Young people who spent the long weekend partying at a local fishing lake left a massive amount of garbage and damage behind.

It could end up being a very expensive bush party weekend for some young people.

Fines for some of the offences committed at Spring Lake, west of Peachland, over the Victoria Day long weekend range from a minimum of $173 to thousands of dollars, according to Conservation Officer Mike Stern.

Although they are ticketable offences, each could also proceed to court where much higher fines could result.

The fine for burning prohibited materials such as plastics is a minimum of $575, as is the fine for damaging habitat below the high water mark; and there are $345 fines for abandoning a campfire and for lighting, fueling or using a campfire that is larger than a half-metre by a half-metre.

“Anyone near an oversized campfire is responsible for it; not just whoever started it,” Stern noted.

There are also fines of $173 for destruction of Crown timber and $115 for discharge of litter, whether that’s a paper cup, a couch or a beer can tossed into a lake. The same size fine is due for building an unauthorized structure on Crown land.

And, all those offences were committed at Spring Lake over the weekend, when a party of 60 to 80 people pitched their tents and parked their cars, trucks and trailers for a three-day party, leaving behind a trail of destruction and garbage, ranging from broken chairs, couches and tents to beer cans, bottles and trash.

In the process they hacked down live trees, built crude structures, drove into the lake, built large fires and left some of them smoldering when they vacated what once was a peaceful little wilderness fishing lake.

It is legal to camp on Crown land, even when it’s not a recreation site, but turning a patch of wilderness into a landfill site is not.

Local hunter and angler James Springer and a friend drove to Spring Lake on the weekend and warned the partying young people to clean up the area before they left. He took a video of his visit and has posted it on youtube, along with his re-visit Monday.

However, when he returned on Monday, the people were gone, but the mess was unbelievable.

“I’ve been to Spring Lake many times to fish when I was growing  up and it looked quite different from what it does now. It’s ridiculous. It’s vandalism on a massive scale,” he commented.

“Those people should be charged and they should clean it up. They should take responsibility for their actions,” said Springer.

There are licence plate numbers visible on the videos, he said, and he has forwarded the videos to the Conservation Officer Service. View them at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qa1gpHB7VPg&feature=relmfu and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Vj4gl66leg

Stern said they have reviewed the video and are investigating.

Any information would be welcomed through the Report all Poachers and Polluters hotline at:  1-877-9522-7277(RAPP) and it can be reported anonymously, said Stern.

Stern pointed out that with today’s social media links, people should be aware that information can be disseminated quickly and widely and be very damaging.

When such events as this occur, he said if those who created the mess don’t clean it up, sometimes a local fish and game club or the regional district will step in, but there’s no one responsible except those who caused the damage, unless there’s a court-imposed clean-up.

In fact, Springer returned to Spring Lake Wednesday to see if any of the mess had been cleaned up, and some of the debris had been piled on a fire and burned.

He picked up two couches, a hideabed and upholstered chair in his truck to take to the dump, but he said there’s still a mess of beer cans and junk left there.

Enforcement staff from several ministries were out in the back country over the long weekend and Sgt. Josh Lockwood of the CO Service said it was pretty busy.

There was also vandalism at Noisy Creek in the North Okanagan, where charges were laid and alcohol and a prohibited weapon were seized.

Otherwise, in the Vernon area, he said nine tickets were written and 18 warnings issued. As well, three criminal investigations resulted, including one of timber theft.

A grizzly bear sow was also shot illegally and left on Mabel Lake Road, he reported.

In the area of the Bear Creek Off-Highway Vehicle recreation site, a number of tickets were given out for dirt bikes without spark arresters and warnings issued for no facility passes, along with failure to have a helmet.

There were also charges in the Postill Lake Road area for destruction of habitat and other offences and there were a number of charges and warnings given out by patrols on the Aberdeen Plateau.

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com