Too much drinking in the back country

Conservation officers issued dozens of tickets over the long weekend for everything from intoxication to boat and vehicle offences.

For Sergeant Josh Lockwood of the conservation officer service, the most disturbing part of a busy long weekend enforcing the law in the back country was the amount of illegal alcohol consumption.

He and other COs found people drinking while operating boats, motorcycles and ATVs, and it wasn’t that they were underage, they were mostly in their 20s and 30s, he said.

In fact, he said there were a couple of parties of high school-aged teens—70 at one site—who acted in a very responsible manner, were respectful of the environment, and left the site as clean as they’d found it.

But, in other areas, officers gave out two 24-hour suspensions to people driving ATVs while impaired and there were a couple of ATV accidents as well.

It’s as if people feel the normal rules don’t apply once they’re off the blacktop, he commented.

Tickets were issued for driving without insurance, driving a motorcycle without a helmet on and two ATVs were seized and impounded for 30 days.

The worst was at Sugar Lake where a conservation officer checked 30 people and issued 29 tickets, from angling without a licence to not having any life jackets in the boat, and one angler had nothing but a lawn chair in the boat. He had no life jackets, bailer, flashlight, tow rope, throw line, paddle or anything else required by regulations to be aboard all boats. He was issued with $500 in tickets, making it an expensive weekend.

Ironically, May 18 was the start of Boating Safety Week as well, he added.

Officers also enforced the rules in the Bear Creek Recreation Site, where Lockwood said there were a lot of people who were sneaking onto the new trails without purchasing a trail pass, so they were ticketed for operating in the area without a permit.

Not all the back country users were ignoring the rules, however. He said officers Saturday checked 30 people and only laid two charges in the Bear Creek area, while Sunday on the Aberdeen Plateau, only four charges and three warnings were passed out, of 38 people checked.

During boat checks on Okanagan Lake, officers issued more than 25 tickets for such offences as fishing without a licence, having more than their quota of fish, not having an operator competency card for operating a boat, not having life jackets on board, not having a bailer and throw line, flashlight, or paddle on board or fishing with barbed hooks, reports Sergeant Jim Beck of the CO service.

As well, he said conservation officers issued tickets for having open liquor, for possession of narcotics, driving without due care and attention, failing to stop, driving while impaired, driving without a driver’s licence and driving without insurance on tours of Forest Service Recreation Sites in the southern half of the valley.

Natural resource officer Randal Kohlhauser said they conducted patrols from Kelowna south to Princeton one day, and on the east side of Okanagan Lake the other day of the long weekend, including in the McCulloch Lake area.

There they ticketed people who had left a campfire unattended, which results in a $345 fine and another for damaging a natural resource feature in a rec site, for a $115 fine.

Motorcycles operating without insurance on a forest service road were also ticketed, which cost their riders $345.

He said there was a high volume of off-road vehicle use in the McCulloch Lake area, and there were issues with speed and helmet use.

Some of those staying at the sites said noise late at night was an issue, but the sites were packed with campers, he noted.

Lockwood said there are also a number of investigations underway into mud bogging incidents over the weekend.

Officers will continue to spend some time enforcing the rules in the Bear Creek Recreation Site area, he warned.

That’s just fine with John Glaspie, recreation officer for the Okanagan Region.

He said the Bear Creek site was particularly busy over the long weekend with lots of families staying at the campsites and using the training trails for youngsters.

Funds from the trail passes goes right back into maintenance of trails in the area, so users are more willing to pay the fee and enjoy the well-maintained trails, he said.

 

jsteeves@kelownacapnews.com