BY RATTAN MALL
SOUTH Asian seniors who have been using the covered picnic tables at Beaver Creek Park at 12270 – 66 Avenue are terribly upset and feel discriminated against by the City of Surrey that has decided to remove the tables.
They told The VOICE that they had been informed that the picnic tables were being removed because of allegations that some people were using them for drinking liquor and making a lot of noise. They feel that instead of the City and the Surrey RCMP dealing with the rowdies, they are taking the easy way out by removing the picnic tables.
“This is the only place some of these South Asian seniors have to meet. This is their life. Why are they being treated like second-class citizens?” some South Asians angrily demanded.
AFTER this story was published on our website, we received calls on Thursday alleging that the seniors were drinking and behaving in an aggressive manner and one of the protestors sent photos to back their version.
The email said that the sheltered benches “are not only causing a lot of problems in the neighbourhood, but also promoting unhealthy lifestyles.” The person who had phoned us earlier alleged: “The day always starts off with men coming early morning and wrapping the shelter around with tarps so no one knows what is happening inside. [In the] afternoon, the tarps come off and we see the men playing cards, gambling and making loud noises, disturbing the children that go to Beaver Creek Elementary and the residence on that street. At few times, there have been emptied alcohol bottles lying under the shelter, emptied by the men that come there. These men are aged from 40 to 55 and are not senior citizens. Most drive from other parts of the city to meet over here.”
He further alleged: “Let alone stare, they make uncomfortable comments and insults towards children and women walking by. At late nights, teenagers come by and also drink and smoke in the shelter; the teenagers have burnt the portable washroom there many times.
Both groups also leave a very large mess of garbage, impacting the environment and the residence on 66 Avenue. All these problems can be prevented by simply either moving the shelter or taking it away.”
When we contacted the other group, they said that the allegations were false as far as the senior men (who our photographer took pictures of earlier this week) were concerned.
They said that removing the shelters would not solve anything as the seniors are determined to continue to go there to meet and sit on the grass.
They also said that the young rowdies who go there at night to drink will still carry on doing that and it was for the police and the city to take action against them instead of making seniors scapegoats.
THE VOICE contacted the City that sent this statement by Owen Croy, Manager of Parks:
THE City had a small covered picnic table (‘shelter’) in place at Beaver Creek Park for more than a decade. A few years ago, a second shelter was added.
The City placed a ‘Porta-Potty’ at this location for the comfort and convenience of the seniors that used the shelter; unfortunately the portable toilet was vandalized on several occasions, at significant cost to the City.
Based on community requests, including a petition, the City made plans to put in a small concrete washroom that would be convenient for park patrons and yet would not be subject to vandalism. However, area residents blocked the construction of the small concrete washroom, and submitted a petition asking that the washroom not be installed, and that the shelters be removed.
In the petition, received near the end of February 2015, area residents stated that “…..people make noise in the park at night. Also, people will use the public washroom and the shed as a ‘hang out place at night”. For example, people drink at night and make loud noises, which scares the children. Also, we the residents cannot open our windows at night due to the foul language that these people use……”
Due to the inappropriate night time use of the park, and due to the difficulty in patrolling the park at night, the issue of community safety has been raised by the local community.
Staff carefully reviewed the City’s policies and guidelines related to the locating of shelters in City Parks. The guidelines used for establishing where new shelters can be located suggest that new shelters should not be located in neighbourhood parks, due to the proximity to neighbouring homes and due to the lack of supporting infrastructure such as public washrooms.
Based on the concerns raised by park neighbours, and also on the City’s existing policies and guidelines, a decision was made by the City’s Manager of Parks (Owen Croy) to relocate the shelters to the nearby Tamanawis Park, a community-sized park that contains supporting infrastructure, and which does not have residential homes in close proximity. The area where the shelters are to be relocated to at Tamanawis Park is approximately 800 metres away along paths and sidewalks from Beaver Creek Park. At Tamanawis Park, shelter users will have the opportunity to move indoors into the Field House during inclement weather, and will also have access to permanent washroom facilities.
At the present time, our plan is to move the shelters to Tamanawis Park on or about April 17th.