About five feet off a trail near the McAdam Park off-leash area sat a blue tarp littered with used needles, food containers, clothes and garbage.
Duncan’s Tom Otten came across it while at the park on the weekend, posted the image to Facebook, and sent a copy to the press.
“It’s time to take back our streets and parks for the safety of our children and dogs. This is an ongoing problem in our community. Enough is enough,” he said.
The mess was reported to several agencies. Members of the Canadian Mental Health Association’s sharps team cleaned it up.
Duncan Mayor Phil Kent said park users can call the city to alert the public works crews of situations such as this, so they can either deal with it, or send the right people to do so.
“Our public works still take care of those things. They might report it to the sweep team but typically they would just manage it themselves if they know about it,” Kent explained. “We’ve cleaned up lots of encampments in McAdam Park and in other places, as well, on a regular basis.”
McAdam Park is one of the sites around town that does have a sharps box, but it doesn’t always get used. The park is a well-known location for overnighters and drugs users.
“It’s kind of private at night for those who want to camp out there and use and it is one of the areas that the sweep team collects the most needles from, which they do seven days a week,” Kent said. “They can’t scan the whole park because it’s quite large and some people kind of dig into the underbrush quite a bit to hide themselves. They’re not out there doing it visibly.”
The staff and parents at Cowichan Preschool on Wharncliffe Road went so far as to fundraise for an eight-foot-high fence after finding drug paraphernalia on its grounds in April.
Kent said the city workers would continue to monitor the park as best they can.
“Our parks bylaws have very clear direction in it so that if somebody is camping out, they can only do it in certain locations at certain times and if there’s nobody present then we just take the stuff,” he said.
The debate continues about how best to address the ongoing issues related to needles and drugs use in the Cowichan Valley, including the suitability of an overdose prevention site in Duncan.