With heat waves this past weekend in the Lower Mainland, British Columbia residents might be looking to get away from the COVID-19 pandemic at local parks and beaches. However, police are now saying that large crowds in Port Moody are leading to heightened tensions.
Port Moody Police said in a news release that the large numbers of people at Sasamat Lake and White Pine Beach in Belcarra Regional Park is contributing to that friction. Officers say that they have responded to reports of physical assaults, assault with bear spray, intoxication and liquor consumption, and abuse of bylaw officers. Alcohol is prohibited inside the park. Overcrowding has also created some traffic issues, with illegal parking and people walking on the road.
Belcarra Mayor Neil Belenkie was quoted recently as calling Sasamat Lake the “Florida of Metro Vancouver” in a radio story due to the number of young people not practicing social distancing. He says that he and his constituents are deeply concerned by what they’ve been seeing.
“There’s lots of fear due to the lack of social distancing,” said Belenkie told Black Press Media Tuesday (July 28). “The environment is being trashed by car damage, littering and people parking on the side of the road.”
“The volume of people is one thing, but the lawlessness and disrespect we’ve seen is unbelievable.”
In Belcarra, Fraser Health also released an advisory urging people to avoid swimming at White Pine Beach after testing at Sasamat Lake found high levels of E.coli contamination. The test – conducted on July 24 – found that the contamination exceeded 400 parts of bacteria per 100 ml of water.
A “satisfactory” E.coli result, according to the Fraser Health website, is less or equal to 200 E.coli bacteria per 100 ml.
That being said, Belenkie isn’t convinced theadvisory will deter people from showing up to Sasamat Lake.
“I think that the demographic of people who are coming out are obviously not concerned about their health or the health of people around them. They’re obviously not concerned about the pandemic.”
B.C. Premier John Horgan said he was disappointed to see video footage of crowds at beaches in Kelowna and Vancouver. However, Horgan has previously stated that the province would not penalize people for breaking public health guidelines, and the province will continue with this strategy.
– With files from The Canadian Press
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