By COLLIN GALLANT on July 28, 2023.
Seeking to disrupt a rise in bush parties and brawls, Medicine Hat Police have asked that traffic gates at several city parks be locked overnight.
Police are also offering further explanation on a city program to lock the pedestrian tunnel under the CP rail yard overnight this winter, stating the risk of fire is too great when homeless people seek shelter.
Inspector Joe West told the News on Thursday that a decision by city parks to block vehicle traffic between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. came on recommendation from his department.
The change came into effect at Kin Coulee, Strathcona Island Park, and Police Point Park on Wednesday night.
“Often time we have had large groups of teenagers going down, having bon fires and bush parties which come with some typical problems and safety issues, like fights,” said West.
“(In the past) we’ve had the resources to go down, lock the gates and clear them out. We’re going to resume that.”
The city says the restrictions are “proactive measures to address the recent increase in vandalism and undesirable activities in specific city parks.”
As well this month, city infrastructure division announced that under a ‘secure spaces’ program, it would plan to install locking gates this September at the underpass which joins North and South Railway streets at Second Street in the city centre.
West said the major concern comes in winter months when homeless people use the tunnel for shelter, but can create substantial fire risk.
“We were noticing that especially in the winter, people were inhabiting the pedestrian tunnel and actually taking propane bottles and starting fires down there,” said West. “That’s when it became a definite public safety hazard. We brought it to their attention, they did some brainstorming solutions and securing it is probably the safest.”