People, not pooches, seem to be causing a poopy predicament at the fairgrounds.
Salmon Arm council discussed a letter at its Oct. 26 meeting from L. Robertson, writing on behalf of several people who walk their dogs at the fairgrounds.
The letter, dated Sept. 10, began by stating how grateful the dog owners are to be able to use the area. It went on to say that human feces have become a concern.
“There is a large number of homeless people who have taken up residence in some of the barns. Along with them there are drug users who frequent the area. With the closure of many of the public washrooms, this park has become a human toilet. There are human feces in the tall grass, underneath the grandstand and along the fences to name a few spots. For some unknown reason dogs are attracted to this, they roll in it, eat it, people step in it and it is becoming a real concern,” Robertson wrote.
“My dog ate some and later that day had a seizure, vomiting and general lethargy. We can’t be sure but it is quite likely the person who left this in the grass was a drug user and trace amounts of this drug got into my dog’s bloodstream. It seems too coincidental to be anything else. I have heard of a similar situation from another dog owner.”
The letter writer stated that needles and other drug paraphernalia have been found and a fire pit was seen under the grandstand, a possible fire hazard. The writer added that although dog owners want to see homeless people treated fairly, the issues are getting too great to ignore.
Robertson suggested that if the people living there can’t be moved to a better location, perhaps a general clean-up could be held and a porta-potty left there.
Coun. Sylvia Lindgren, council’s rep on the Salmon Arm & Shuswap Lake Agricultural Association (SASLAA) board, noted that the fairgrounds are not an off-leash dog park nor a dog park at all, although people like to use them for that.
The fall fair committee has been talking about homeless people using the grounds for a long time, she said. A security firm was hired and the committee is “not entirely sure how the homeless people could be living there if the security company is doing its job.” However, it hasn’t been determined what the problem is. When it has, Lindgren said she would bring the information back to council.
Lindgren said she’s heard there are a couple of new people who are less amenable to working things out than the rest of the homeless people in town.
She also told council that SASLAA has been talking about holding a kind of educational fair for dog owners at the fairgrounds “and what we might need to do to make sure that that area doesn’t get locked up during non-event times.”
Mayor Alan Harrison said dogs don’t seem to be the current problem. Lindgren added: “People are.”
Both Harrison and Coun. Kevin Flynn expressed their appreciation for SASLA for allowing dog owners to use the grounds.
Flynn noted the city owns the land and SASLAA leases it, so if the security person has the authority to remove homeless people like the bylaw officer and the RCMP do, perhaps the city should be hiring a security person for downtown. Flynn suggested the letter be forwarded to the city’s social impact advisory committee.