By COLLIN GALLANT on October 11, 2023.
The city parks department plans to place needle deposit boxes in two downtown parks, administrators said Tuesday, in an effort protect parks workers from a problem they say is generally not widespread.
Department head James Will told the News discussions are underway with Medicine Hat police and Alberta SafeLink – which monitors other boxes at city facilities – about how and where to place new boxes at Batus Park and Veterans Memorial Riverside Park.
“There is an issue for safety and for our staff, so just to have something there (may reduce needles),” he said. “Generally, the public is not going to come across a needle – we haven’t seen that happening. They’re not all over the park, but our staff has to go in and do general cleanup.”
He said needles are often discretely disposed of in flower beds or secluded areas, but in places where parks staff pick up litter or trim plants.
In response, they could provide several boxes in problematic areas, as is done currently in washrooms at Strathcona Island Park, to make proper disposal more convenient.
The department is also ordering LED lights for use in Riverside Park to improve lighting, and discussing the matter with Medicine Hat Police, said Will.
The city currently has the hard-plastic containers – technically called a “sharps” box – in washrooms at several locations, as does the Medicine Hat Public Library. They are monitored and collected by SafeLink.
City councillors on the committee lauded the work of that organization, which will attend sites where needles are found when informed by bylaw officers or the general public.
“We’ve seen needles accumulate in places where there is no place to dispose them,” he said after briefing council’s public services committee. “There are areas that are known to police, and we’ve had that discussion with them.
“The police are attempting to reduce drug activity downtown in general.”
As well in the downtown, the city is close to posting a number of permanent maps of the area, the committee heard. They will provide general navigation, staff said, as well as direct pedestrians to public amenities, such as washrooms.