Two weeks ago, two jet skis crashed in what was probably a game of chicken at Prelude Lake. The machines did not fare well though the young drivers escaped relatively unscathed. They are part of the ATV/jet ski community that make up a large body of campsite users at the park and who are making life unpleasant for everyone.
Part of the problem is that ATV and jet ski users only require permits, not licensing and they can hold permits at 14 years of age, with no training. This means that youngsters are turned loose on machines that can be as lethal as cars.
It would be great to say they are taught by responsible caregivers, but three weeks ago after the park wardens had left for the evening and after the gatekeeper had turned in, adult ATV users climbed on their machines and buzzed around the park both on and off trail which is against park regulations. A trail of beer cans followed their tracks which ran into the ditches, and onto centre islands in one of the loops mowing down natural vegetation and keeping other campers up till the early hours of the morning. All of these users are told when they are given permits that off road travel is prohibited but that did not register with them. Deeply ingrained tire tracks were everywhere. One of them was heard to quip, “we have environmentally friendly tires” after a parks officer spoke with him about the incident.
It is hard for young people to learn good ATV etiquette from these adults.
The following weekend, parks staff erected barricades cutting off some of the trails that went off road into the sensitive underbrush. Sometime during the day, vandals took the barricades apart putting pieces on top of signs or leaving them in the ditch. Such is some of the ATV and Sea-Do mentality that the officers and gatekeepers have to cope with while trying to make the park safe.
It was an interesting coincidence that this vandalism of government property happened when parks staff were hosting a fish fry for park visitors in an effort to build community. It doesn’t seem to be the kind of community that some ATV users want.
The icing on the cake, perhaps, was when ATVs were driven into the playground on a busy Saturday afternoon when the children’s area was being well used by tykes of all ages, including infants as young as one. It was by grace that none of them were using the slide when the ATV people drove onto this area specifically designed for the use of children.
All of this is a terrible accident waiting to happen.
Sadly, when some of these people need more excitement, they drive around the loops for the heck of it; kicking up dust and creating obnoxious noise that ATVs make, disturbing everyone including those who go to Prelude for much needed rest and relaxation. Spending time in nature is not just a time to reacquaint ourselves with the natural environment; it also provides some with a badly needed mental health break.
Of course, the best solution is to ban ATVs and jet skis from territorial parks but that is not likely to happen soon. Failing that, no one under the age of 16 should hold a permit and operators need to be licensed, not just handed free permits.
While gatekeepers try to put ATV users together, it may be time to have separate camping grounds for them where they can only disturb each other. No one should have to listen to loud ATVs used all day, or jet skis driven by operators who only care about themselves. This is inconsiderate to others, to the environment and the mental health and well being of everyone.
The Department of ITI is aware of the situation and examining the regulations to see if they meet the needs of all park users. Since there appears to be a group of people that have trouble respecting the rights of others, setting regulations that keep the park safe and usable for everyone seems like an appropriate action to take.
Further, it may be also a good time to rethink the rules around loud generators which do much to take away from the pleasant park experience the parks are hoping to create.
The summer is well underway. Let’s hope that happens soon.