A coalition of Pass Creek residents and officials is joining together to ask Castlegar kids to take their grad parties somewhere else.
In recent years grad parties have been taking place at the rate of three parties a year at the Upper Pass Creek Park and ball field about seven kilometres up Pass Creek Road.
The park sits along Norns Creek — the main drinking water supply for Pass Creek and Robson residents. It also lacks cell service.
The park is to Pass Creek residents what Millennium Park is to Castlegar residents.
“We are very concerned about wildfire risk and about a student being hurt and not being able to get medical attention because there is no cell service in the area,” said RDCK Area I director Andy Davidoff.
“We are struggling with this, and the community is struggling with this. It’s about safety — before a tragedy occurs,” he said.
“It is deadly serious.”
In a letter signed by the Pass Creek Neighbourhood Association, the Pass Creek Fire Department and Davidoff, the group asks Castlegar kids, parents and the community as a whole to look at the situation from their perspective.
“Now imagine, 400-plus vehicles converging into your community with hundreds of kids that are drunk, stoned or both all congregating in your neighbourhood.
“A ritual of these parties, and of great concern to local residents, is for the kids to light a huge bonfire. If a fire gets out of control at the ball field, the entire Pass Creek valley could burn in a few hours due to the topography of the valley.
“This puts hundreds of families at risk,” says the group.
They also say the large bonfires have gotten out of hand on several occasions and have been left unattended and still burning after the partiers leave the next morning. Such was the case at the most recent party that took place April 27.
Beyond the bonfire, they are also concerned about cigarette butts and hot vehicles igniting a grass fire.
Even though there have been calls for the Pass Creek Fire Department to go into the party site during the party to extinguish large pallet fires over the years, the fire department will not respond to the party site for fear of being overwhelmed and injured themselves, as well as damage to fire equipment.
This is not an unheard of fear. The letter says that has happened on previous occasions when the fire department tried to respond.
Davidoff says the parties continue to grow larger and larger. The parties used to have about 100 attendees, but at the most recent party RCMP say there were about 400 people.
“The impact of these parties on local residents is atrocious,” say the letter writers.
”Pass Creek residents have to put up with masses of high and drunk kids shrieking and hollering, vehicles revving up engines and doing burnouts at the ball park as well as along roads leading to the park, all to loud ear-splitting thumping music which can be heard throughout Pass Creek valley all night long.”
“Imagine being in your home, kept awake all night, fearful of the drunk and/or drugged people walking around, or sleeping, or puking, or defecating in your yard. Should you drive to town the next morning, you will likely find kids sleeping in ditches alongside the roads.
“It’s a gong show.”
Even though the grads attempt to clean up, the group says garbage is still left behind.
“Broken glass, condoms, tampons, piles of bowel movements, toilet paper and baby wipes are scattered throughout the ball field, beach areas adjacent to the creek and in private yards,” says the letter.
“Local residents are sick and tired of these bashes year after year.”
There is also concern that party leftovers including drugs and alcohol could end up in the hands of young children or pets.
The group is urging parents to think twice about allowing their kids to attend these parties on the grounds of safety.
“Permissive parents who drop off their children for their ‘right of passage’ should know that there is no cell service in the Pass Creek valley so there is no way to call for help in the event of an accident or overdose.”
The RDCK is looking into its options for squashing these events, including special event permit bylaws and noise bylaws.
“We are very frustrated with the issue of not being able to address really large mass gatherings on Crown land,” said Davidoff.
“These parties are an accident waiting to happen,” concluded Davidoff. “I would hate for any family to lose a child.”
The Pass Creek letter writers have a suggestion:
“We are not opposed to youth celebrating their right of passage, but we would like to suggest Millennium Park as an alternative venue for grad parties. The park has washrooms, picnic tables, ample parking and easy drop off for parents as well as good access for emergency vehicles such as RCMP, fire and ambulance. The area also has good cell service.”