Whether it was the rain – or messaging from the City of White Rock – that prevented a large influx of visitors to the city’s waterfront over the Victoria Day long weekend is not clear.
Whatever the case, city council heard in reports from new chief administrative officer Guillermo Ferrero, RCMP Staff Sgt. Kale Pauls, and engineering and municipal operations director Jim Gordon that anticipated public gatherings – and major infractions of pandemic physical distancing policy – failed to materialize between May 16 and May 18.
Biggest concern according to Gordon, and Coun. Scott Kristjanson, was the breaching of the temporary security fence blocking off the promenade east of Cypress Street on East Beach on Sunday, although this was repaired, and more thoroughly locked up, within a few hours.
Anticipating a potential invasion of fair-weather visitors, council had last week authorized $10,000 in overtime to guarantee a greater police presence at the waterfront, but Pauls told council at Tuesday night’s meeting that events on Marine Drive turned out to be low-key.
“From the RCMP perspective (the) weekend was fairly tame, I guess,” he said. “We issued about 15 violation tickets on Marine Drive for various offences, mostly speeding, but fail to yield to pedestrian was another one.
“Typically throughout the weekdays and weekends we have people who are jumping the fences and that perimeter and they are dealt with by the (RCMP) members or by bylaw (enforcement staff),” he added. “There were no huge issues on the weekend that I’m aware of.”
“People can climb the fence, or they can walk down the railway (tracks); they can climb the railway fence,” Gordon commented.
“But what I noticed is, especially on Monday, people who did it, didn’t stay. For some reason they walked through the area and left. I was more concerned, in the weeks preceding, when people set up on the picnic benches. I think Sunday morning there was one group that did that, but the bylaw officers escorted them out and we did some more locking of the gates.”
Kristjanson said residents had reported the gates had “been opened by somebody” and that people were walking on the promenade east of Cypress Street for some four hours on Sunday.
“Sunday morning, I think around 10 a.m., somebody broke the fance open and left it open,” Gordon confirmed. “We got someone out there around 2 ’o clock – as soon as we heard about it, we went out there. I think there may have been eight or 10 people in there, including the two at the picnic bench.
“What really concerned me is that when they left the fence open, there were older people who went in there, and we had to make sure we got them out before we chained it up – people that maybe couldn’t climb a fence.
“Other people go in there, but they don’t seem to stay long.”
Ferrero told council that the city welcomes any reports from the public of similar infractions of COVID-19 measures.
“You can always call our public works department and report it and we’ll make sure it’s corrected.”
Friday (May 22), Pauls contacted Peace Arch News to advise that the additional $10,000 that was authorized by council f0r overtime was not used. While additional officers were on shift on Marine Drive for the weekend, “the cost was much less than $10,000 and we will not be billing the City to take them up on their supportive financial stance for enhanced public safety on the weekend,” he told PAN by email.
“Continued enhanced enforcement throughout the summer will also be taken from our existing budget,” Pauls added.