Ucluelet residents are raising concerns over the impacts late-night beach fire gatherings are having on Big Beach. (Nora O’Malley photo)

Big Beach parties spark concern in Ucluelet

“You find needles, left over party debris, bottles and still burning fires.”

Residents of Ucluelet’s Primera estates are growing increasingly concerned about the size of fires and rising number of late-night gatherings at Big Beach.

Strata manager Christine Brice wrote a letter to mayor and council on behalf of the owners at Primera, the properties overlooking Big Beach.

“Along with noise disrupting the sleep of Primera residents, the next morning, still burning fires, broken glass bottles and, in a few cases, needles are left behind with other debris. These items create safety concerns for the families that then come to use the beach during the day,” reads the letter to council dated May 5, 2020.

“The Owners of Primera recommend that the District of Ucluelet implement a curfew at Big Beach of 11:00 p.m. This would empower Bylaw staff to ensure the park is empty at 11:00 p.m. as well as give the RCMP tools for enforcement not reliant on complaints,” the letter concludes.

Primera owner Ron Clayton spoke at the June 9 regular council meeting on behalf of the Strata.

“What we’ve been recognizing the last couple of seasons is it’s really cranked up in the intensity post midnight. It gets to be quite something down there,” said Clayton.

“I have no issue with beach fires,” he stressed. “It’s part of the culture and enjoying living here. It seems that after 11, after 12, then that’s kind of it. Honestly, I’ve been here for seven, eight years, and the last couple it’s gotten really intense. I would say that some people are living down there. We just don’t know what to do,” said Clayton.

Currently, the district bylaw for parks and public spaces are to close from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. the next morning, according to Ucluelet’s manager of community planning Bruce Greig.

“It is a matter of enforcement and staffing and when they are on. One of the changes we’ve put in place for this summer season is we’ve shifted their work week, so our bylaw officer is working covering the weekends,” said Greig at the June 9 council meeting.

Greig went on to say that when the gatherings that go on into the very late in the evening, that would then be a call to the RCMP.

Mayor Mayco Noel said during his monthly luncheon with Ucluelet’s top cop Sgt. Steve Mancini, he inquired about the late night policing concerns at Big Beach. He said calls to 9-1-1 at 3 a.m. go to a dispatch in Courtenay.

“They will, at that time, the staff sergeant will determine if that warrants a local detachment officer being paged to go there or do you let them still sleep. Sometimes it’s just the roll of the dice if there is, in fact, an RCMP officer that is on shift that evening. That would answer why some of the tenants made calls and that no one showed up. It’s not that it’s not an important call, it’s simply with staffing reasons,” said Noel.

The Primera strata continues to urge the district to implement a curfew.

“It’s chronic problem. You find needles, left over party debris, bottles and still burning fires. We don’t want people to stop gathering, we think the idea of a curfew would give us some teeth,” said Brice.

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