Local resident sees fire-risk in unsupervised bonfires
BY NATE SMELLE
Residents in the neighbourhood surrounding Harold Black Park are concerned that the beloved public space is becoming party central for local youth. According to Patti Hazlett, one of the residents living within earshot of the park, the weekly bash usually kicks off around 10 PM or 11 PM every Friday and Saturday. She said the kids causing the disturbance usually gather at the trailhead leading into the park from Quaker Road. From there, they move deeper into the park, lighting bonfires and partying among the evergreens. The park is also a happening place around 3 PM on weekdays after the kids get out of school and stop in to “toke-up.”
Hazlett said she does not have a problem with the kids having a good time outdoors, but she does take issue with the mess they leave behind.
“It’s pretty nasty back in there,” she said.
“It doesn’t matter where it comes from, the bottom line is put it in the garbage. Same with the kids — I don’t care that they party in there, just don’t set fires and pick up your trash. It’s a matter of respecting the earth.”
Arriving on site last Friday afternoon, a visitor found two garbage bags full of trash collected by someone in the community who took it upon himself to clean up the park. Although someone had obviously cleaned up a substantial amount of trash, the forest floor was still covered in empty beer bottles, used condoms, pop cans and other random garbage. The deeper one wanders into the park, the more trash littering the forest he’ll find. Placed carefully near the fire pit in wait of the weekend’s partygoers was a sign that read, “PARTY OVER: Respect the Earth. Cops Notified, Fire Department Notified, Township Informed. Keep Looking over your shoulder. Pick up your trash, you embarrass your family.”
Hazlett said she has contacted the Niagara Regional Police, the Pelham Fire Department and the Town of Pelham to tell them about what has been going on, but so far nothing has been done to resolve the issue.
“It’s just a matter of cleaning up the mess,” she said.
“I don’t care if they don’t catch anybody, but the roads and parks guys that are hired by the Town of Pelham are going to have to get in there with garbage bags to pick up the garbage.”
Asked for comment on the Town’s plan to address the problem, Public Relations and Marketing Specialist Marc MacDonald said that staff knew of the issue.
“There are discussions taking place and a meeting will be held sometime [this] week to discuss how to handle certain areas of the park; police cooperation is a topic that will be discussed as well,” said MacDonald.
While the disrespectful way the kids treat the forest and the community that enjoys it bothers her, what worries Hazlett more is that the kids are igniting bonfires so close to a residential area. She said the low-hanging branches of the evergreens could easily catch fire and set the underbrush ablaze, which could in turn pose a danger to homes in the neighbourhood.
“Where they are having their bonfires is very dangerous,” said Hazlett.
“I get that it’s a good place to party, but there’s no reason to leave it the way they do. They’re ruining the park for everybody else and that’s just not cool.”
Additional reporting by Dave Burket