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Moose Jaw council to vote on bylaw restricting overnight access to parks

With a small group of people causing trouble for downtown businesses and residents, city council has taken the first step to address the problem by asking city administration to develop a bylaw. 
crescent park arch spring 2019 a
Crescent Park (Photo by Larissa Kurz)

MOOSE JAW — With a small group of people causing trouble for downtown businesses and residents, city council has taken the first step to address the problem by asking city administration to develop a bylaw. 

Coun. Kim Robinson presented a motion during the May 27 regular council meeting asking administration to create something to restrict access to parks between certain hours. 

“This was in line with something we had discussed with the parks and rec advisory committee and looking at some areas — perhaps Crescent Park — (to) designate certain times, possibly midnight to 6 a.m. or something like that,” he said, “where we’re restricting access to the park to allow our police force to have a bylaw that is enforceable rather than having vagrancy … in the park.” 

Coun. Heather Eby then asked which parks Robinson wanted the bylaw to address, whether it was all greenspaces or certain ones. 

Robinson replied that the advisory committee believes the parks and recreation department should produce a report about which parks should have their hours restricted because city staff know best.

“It doesn’t have to encompass every park, but it could,” he said. “At this point, it’s open to (department) director (Derek) Blais’ team to bring forward some relevant times and parks.”

Council then unanimously approved the motion.

Taking concerns seriously

Also, during the meeting, Robinson said he had received some calls from residents concerned about safety, including in the downtown, along with concerns about poor communication, residents allegedly disobeying bylaws and city hall’s limited hours.

“Today, I heard from someone who reported about possibly 30 graffiti incidents. I (then) had a call from a staff member saying why does one resident put in so many complaints,” he continued. 

With council and administration receiving all this information, Robinson wondered when they would start taking residents’ voices seriously and how they, as elected and appointed officials, could be held accountable. 

Coun. Dawn Luhning stood up and called a point of order on her colleague’s inquiry, while Mayor Clive Tolley asked him to re-phrase the question since it seemed unclear what he was asking administration. Robinson then restated his question the same way.

“I don’t think that’s a question for administration. We’re the elected officials,” said Tolley. “People in our community are coming to ask us to provide leadership in these areas (and) to bring forward bylaws and instruct our administration to govern our city.

“I’m not sure the administration should be tasked with answering when,” he added. “I think this is an ongoing thing.” 

City manager Maryse Carmichael said she would welcome queries from council about specific incidents so administration can investigate them. She pointed out that more than 35,000 people live in Moose Jaw and city hall takes seriously every communication it receives from them. 

For example, administration received some calls about the closure of Main Street for construction, but it has communicated often with the media about that work.

Furthermore, city administration thoroughly investigates any issues or concerns it receives about alleged bylaw infractions, while it supports the Moose Jaw Police Service’s new anti-trespassing program, Carmichael continued. 

“So with safety and ensuring businesses thrive, we have several programs that have been initiated in the last few months,” she added. 

Maintaining parks

Director Blais addressed a question about park maintenance, saying that out of 40 seasonal staff members, his department has two vacancies to fill on its seasonal team. With that number, staff attempt to mow most greenspaces every 10 days, although that can be challenging in the spring when the grass has high growth rates.

“We do our best to keep up on those,” he said.

Meanwhile, staff attempt to mow sports grounds every seven to eight days, natural parks every two weeks and playgrounds weekly — but that all depends on the type of mower and the situation.

Also, the department sprays sportsgrounds for weeds every spring and fall, while it stays away from playgrounds because those are in residential areas and the department doesn’t want chemicals to drift, Blais added. 

The next regular council meeting is Monday, June 10.      

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