Park watch program provides peace of mind to locals, tourists

Patrols in parks begin during the May long weekend and run through June every weekend.

For years, parking lots in local parks were easy pickings for countless thieves who waited to feast.

Many still do, but something’s changed to curb their appetite.

In 2001, a group of citizens formed what became known as the Park Watch Patrol program, an initiative to prevent theft from vehicles, break-ins and vandalism in provincial parks.

Suddenly, the watchers became the watched.

Until that point, park visitors lived in terror, recalled the program’s coordinator Marie Mills.

“Many people would not go to parks in fear of not having their car broken into,” she said.

Up to 16 patrollers are on the watch, each of whom individually patrols in his assigned park. The watch serves in parks from Matheson Lake to Aylard Farm (East Sooke and Pike Road parking areas), Sooke Potholes, French Beach, China Beach and Botanical Beach in Port Renfrew.

Patrols in parks start during the May long weekend and run through June every weekend. In July and August, the watch goes full-throttle into seven days a week coverage, right through the long weekend in September.

Split between part volunteer and part paid staff, Mills said the program has worked out well since its inception 10 years ago.

“We find now that the thieves leave once they know Park Watch is starting here, they go up Island, which doesn’t hurt our feelings at all. They go to Duncan, Cowichan, Colwood, they just mostly avoid the parks we’re at.”

To keep those flashlights lit and eyes peeled open, the program receives donations from local businesses as well as grateful visitors who are pleased to find their car (and belongings inside) intact.

People travelling far out of town often specifically call to see if any patrollers will be in the park watching, just to know their car is under watch by the good guys.

The patrollers also act as ambassadors, providing useful information and directions to tourists looking to find their way, or addressing possible safety concerns.

The program is also supported by a contribution of $10,000 a year from the Capital Regional District, said Juan de Fuca Electoral Area director Mike Hicks, who believes the patrollers are “really undervalued” for their efforts.

“They’re absolutely tremendous and we depend on them in the regional parks. We just find them invaluable,” he said.

Hicks said the extra pair of eyes helps local tourism by simply providing peace of mind.

“Tourism depends on having a great experience. If you go to a park and come back to your car and it’s vandalized, it’s a lousy experience, you generally don’t come back.”

“When people go out to the beach, instead of coming back to their car that is broken into, they come back to a safe car and a friendly face.”

For more info on the park watch program, email parkwatch@shaw.ca.

 

 

 

Just Posted

Woman charged in Saanichton stabbing

One man treated for injuries, released from hospital following Friday assault

Sooke’s First Nations have Iroquois links

References to the proud Iroquois race tend to make one think of… Continue reading

Avid Victoria cyclist’s legacy bike ride helps fund end-of-life care

2019 Denis Muloin Ride for Palliative Care invites cyclists for May 26 fundraiser

Funnyman coming to the West Shore

Comedy and television staple Billy Gardell performs at Elements Casino

Police-run Youth for Change and Inclusion camp bids fond farewell to tireless directors

Founder Sgt. Paul Brookes has run camp empowering youth and creating leaders for 16 years

‘Teams that win are tight’: B.C. Lions search for chemistry at training camp

The Lions added more than 50 new faces over the off-season, from coaching staff to key players

Growing wildfire prompts evacuation of High Level, Alta.

Chuckegg Creek fire has been burning for several day, but grew substantially Sunday

Top women’s hockey player Natalie Spooner coming to B.C.

Natalie Spooner special guest at annual Grindstone charity weekend in Kelowna

Take-home drug testing kits latest pilot to help curb B.C.’s overdose crisis

Researchers look to see if fentanyl testing could be a useful tool for those who use drugs alone

Facebook takes down anti-vaxxer page that used image of late Canadian girl

Facebook said that the social media company has disabled the anti-vaccination page

Search crews rescue kids, 6 and 7, stranded overnight on Coquitlam mountain

Father and two youngsters fall down a steep, treacherous cliff while hiking Burke Mountain

Raptors beat Bucks 118-112 in 2OT thriller

Leonard has 36 points as Toronto cuts Milwaukee’s series lead to 2-1

Rescue crews suspend search for Okanagan kayaker missing for three days

71-year-old Zygmunt Janiewicz was reported missing Friday

B.C. VIEWS: Reality of our plastic recycling routine exposed

Turns out dear old China wasn’t doing such a great job

Most Read