Ghettos, Illiteracy and Unenforced Bylaws – A Story of Red Deer, Alberta

Once upon a time, long long ago and far far away there was a beautiful kingdom……………………………………

Mackenzie Trails, Red Deer, Alberta

(Hmm, that doesn’t sound right. Lets try it again!)

One gentle and pleasant summer evening I was having a picnic at Mackenzie Ponds, a lovely natural area in Red Deer, Alberta. Our family was gathered together, watermelon was nibbled on, children played on the playground and conversation was enjoyed. The conversation turned to the topic of my blog, and more particularly the situation discussed in this piece (for those interested it was deferred for more consideration……also updated land use bylaws to come).After a little bit of talk my more recent posting, Red Deer, Alberta – Tin Can Ghetto of Canada, came up as I chatted with my mother.

tin can ghetto at the memorial centre, red deer, alberta

tin can ghetto at the memorial centre, red deer, alberta

Here is how the discussion went as we leaned against the hood of the mini van. My mother first couldn’t believe the number of RV’s parked in the Memorial Centre parking lot. Then she couldn’t believe the police’s attitude on the phone of this is why the RV’s are there and that is that. Then the conversation turned to “Do you find you always get nowhere with bylaws? I never have any luck.” My mother goes on to tell me how they have a fortress-like fence, of extreme height, between their property and their neighbor. The height does not comply with the standards set out by the City of Red Deer. They have complained to bylaws about the monstrosity and have had no follow up. And so they live in the shadow of “the wall”.

I do have to agree with her. Every call we make, bylaws or police, it is like you get a shrug back in return. Our garage gets broken into twice in two months, things stolen….shrug. You report a vehicle that was suspicious and we were treated like the criminal (by the way the vehicle WAS STOLEN). We called about a group of people who had jumped into our freshly poured 10 foot deep foundation in the middle of the night (okay, clearly trespassing, clearly dangerous, and clearly we weren’t going out there to deal with it) and no response. You get the feeling. This is probably why we haven’t called the police to tell them about the drug dealing going on around the corner from us. Here are the details if anyone cares. The deals are going down in Coronation Park, by and on the bridge and along the west side (our neighbors get to watch this from their living room window). They are doing them on foot and on bike. If the “customer” is in a car they often idle beside our house for 5-10 minutes waiting to see someone at the bottom of the block and then they drive off to do business. That’s the gig. But there is no point in calling it in because we will get nowhere.

(By the way have you seen this? It says “Below are some of the most commonly requested bylaws of The City of Red Deer:” Not ALL the bylaws, but  SOME. If you want to know ALL the bylaws you can pick up a hard copy at the City of Red Deer Legislative Services office in City Hall. Logical. We all know most bylaw infractions occur Monday to Friday during business hours, with tons of time to drive downtown, park, get the required hard copy, then report the incident. Checking it out on line is much more inconvenient………feel free to shake your head now.)

 But let’s get back to the story.

bylaw sign in the Walmart parking lot with rv's parked in the background

bylaw sign in the Walmart parking lot with rv’s camped in the background

My mother then mentions that she saw a sign regarding a city bylaw and RV’s in Wal-Mart’s parking lot in the south end. This was interesting. Okay this was VERY, VERY INTERESTING. This warranted checking out. (Okay, isn’t it interesting that I am more interested in checking out a bylaw situation than the people that are actually PAID to do it!?…….just saying!)

Okay here is the sign:

bylaw sign 1Pretty straightforward. You could argue perhaps these “campers” are illiterate….BUT……there are also pictures……so that is probably not the scenario. What the scenario is that these RV owners are blatantly defying the bylaw.

Here is a selection of images from September 2nd, 2013 of the Wal-Mart South parking lot. These are the ones taken BEFORE I went in shopping:

walmart rvs 2 walmart rvs 3 walmart rvs 6 walmart rvs 1

So I bought a steam mop, 4 packs of socks (my answer to not matching socks the night before school starts….best $20 anyone can spend!), 5 reusable drink containers, 4 litres of milk, 2 loaves of bread and a head of lettuce. I am a slow shopper (I hate shopping….okay except for art stores and hardware stores). Doesn’t this give you a great insight into my existence.

Much, much later I emerged from the store to find a darkened sky. For argument’s sake I decided to take a second tour through the “RV park” just in case I was wrong. Well….I wasn’t.

Fancy a look? Here are the pics:

walmart rvs 5 walmart rvs 4 walmart rvs 7

The vehicles were still there. Clearly parked for the night. Clearly in violation of the bylaw. However the situation becomes much more interesting when you look more closely at what is going on.

Take a peek………

dude chilling camped in walmart parking lot in red deer alberta cWay up close you see a gentleman chilling for the evening on the stoop of his RV. This is where he was spending his evening. he wasn’t in Wal-Mart shopping, he wasn’t getting ready to drive off, he is sitting on his stoop watching the patrons of Wal-Mart. Creepy. Could you imagine what would happen if I set up my tent in the middle of the Wal-Mart parking lot for the night and pulled out my lawn chair to sit and gawk at the shoppers coming and going? Same thing. (well except that I would actually be camping… a real tent…..just saying)

And then we have this picture………

walmart rvs 3 detailI have highlighted a few points of interest. First the unit is unhooked from the vehicle and up on a block as the sun sets. This unit is not being moved for the night. This unit is “camping”. Not only are they comfortably parked for at least the night, this unit is also using a Wal-Mart shopping cart as their very own personal garbage bin. This makes you wonder if this is perhaps a very permanent living situation. One would have to be occupying an area for a reasonable amount of time to come up with a solution for garbage. This RV is not parked for a shopping trip into Walmart….obviously….it has no pulling vehicle attached.

Another interesting thing about this image is it highlights the locale of the situation. This is not a hidden location. Taylor Drive runs along the west side of where the RV’s are parked. Taylor Drive will have multiple police cars drive along it day and night and yet this impromptu RV campground is conveniently not seen by the authorities. I have been to Wal-Mart when police have been tending to a shoplifting incident, yet again the RV parking is remarkably invisible. I am pretty sure on occasion bylaw and police officers shop at Wal-Mart for personal reasons and still this RV parking lot is off the radar.

On the other side of the coin, this activity is happening on Wal-Mart’s property. If they are not reporting the offense they are then condoning the offense. If Wal-Mart is not calling bylaws EVERY SINGLE NIGHT they should be held responsible for the infraction. It is their responsibility to ensure that their property conforms with bylaws, bylaws that are in place for the protection of the citizens of Red Deer. If Walmart lets this happen they are saying “who cares” about the bylaws, they are saying “who cares” about the citizens, and are in fact proving that they are just a money grabbing mega-corporation. Well they are letting this happen… there you have it. Well done Wal-Mart.

So I would like to just reminisce back to my blog post with regards to the RV’s set up in the neighborhood of Waskasoo. Perhaps that post came off as a “not in my backyard” post, but in fact it was closer to a 100+ backyards than my own (an alley width in several cases). I originally wrote the post because I saw the situation as a slippery slope; that any flat paved surface could be turned into a transient housing project. I also wrote the original post in response to the attitude that we received from the police. I am sorry there is no way they would let 50 tents set up in that parking lot, there is no way they would have let 50 bikers camp out in that parking lot, but because they were “square dancers” they turned a blind eye.

My fear of “the slippery slope” was confirmed tonight.  Any flat surface in this city can and is being turned into a transient ghetto of RV’s and NOTHING IS BEING DONE TO STOP IT………..even when there is a sign posted in the very parking lot they are using.

Happy ending? Not really. Bylaws not being enforced…..this is a problem.


7 thoughts on “Ghettos, Illiteracy and Unenforced Bylaws – A Story of Red Deer, Alberta

  1. I can definitely understand your frustration with how hard it can be to get certain bylaws enforced I have had relatives who have issues with bylaw enforcement in the past…

    I just checked into the city bylaws about camper parking and you are absolutely correct with about the campers parked at Walmart. However, with respect to the square dancing jamboree, according to the land use bylaw under part 3.23 section 1(c) as long as they obtained the proper permissions to be there and seen as they were parked at a venue site/community center then it is legal for them to be there.


    • Thank you for your comment tbfm. As I see you are not a regular blogger by the avatar information I will assume I have the attention of a city official who has spent the morning digging through bylaws.

      So….let’s get down to the nitty gritty of part 3.23 section 1 (c).

      First – it states “a self-contained trailer” not 50. “a” is one. Singular.

      Secondly – I assume you have access so I would like to see a scanned approval by the “Development Authority” as stated as being necessary in part (ii)

      Thirdly – overnight parking is not to exceed two night unless approved by the “Development Authority” and the jamboree ran August 30th, 31st, September 1st and 2nd.

      But more importantly, whether the city is hiding behind a poxy bylaw or not, the fact of the matter is it is just another example of the City of Red Deer pissing on older neighborhoods. “Who cares” is their attitude. When we moved into our neighborhood 20 years ago Woodlea playground had two play grounds, one for big kids and one for little kids. We had multiple picnic tables and fire pits for hot dog roasts. We had a skating rink in winter with full boards. We had a nicely mowed hill. We had a well kept ball diamond. First they took away the little kids playground. They stopped maintaining the ball diamond so teams stopped using it. The fire pits went and all but ONE picnic table went. The hill to the south end is a weed infested mess. They took away our skating rink (check back into past blog posts). So here we are 20 years later. At the playground their is one picnic table and one partially broken bench. For the past three years the area next to the playground site has been used to store construction materials and machinery; great to have right next to where your kids play. I have pictures from this past Sunday of piping , and garbage piled on the site right near the playground. If you would like to go deeper into the neighborhood we can look directly across the street from my home, a sidewalk maintained by the city. They may have plowed it 3 times last winter…so much for the 48 hour “rule”. Also it gets better, they have let the trees and grass over grow so much that you can’t get a double stroller (which is the same width as a wheel chair) down the side walk; the pavement is half covered with debris (I have pictures of that too if you would like).

      But you know what is really special, the city keeps taking away our amenities, stops maintaining our area yet feels it justified to RAISE OUR TAXES.

      Bylaw or not, the city needs to show some common sense. This IS a residential neighborhood. Why do the non-taxpayers of this event have a higher priority than the tax payers sitting in the homes of these neighborhoods? Essentially if the “Development Authority” okayed this they have given the residents of the area the middle finger……and then demanded that they pay their taxes.



      No respect for our neighborhood.

      ….by the way, any comment on the drug dealing or is that perfectly cool with you?

      • First: I was linked here from the Joe Red Deer blog after your rant was re posted there which I do check on from time to time.

        Second: I do not nor have I ever worked for ANY gov’t agency on any level so if you want a scanned approval you’ll have to ask the city.

        Third: I actually agree with most of your complaints however your statement that these particular people were breaking bylaws was incorrect provided they had permission, and believe it or not it only took me about 5 minutes to find this information.

        I find it a bit hypocritical that you talk about the deterioration of public facilities and then complain when people use them. You talk about using common sense, well what harm is there in having some campers about for 3 or 4 nights on the long weekend any, were these square dancing seniors loud? Did they leave a mess behind? Did they cause any damage? I’m willing to wager no…

      • Hello again. We can skip all the yadda, yadda yadda as I am pretty sure I have worked out exactly who you are.

        Anyways, here is the issue. The people residing right next to the Memorial Centre had only 50 feet (just went and measured it!) separating their backyards from the nearest RV. They had a small town dropped on them for the long weekend. Whether there was noise, or garbage or whatever the simple presence of an invasion of RV’s staring at you for a long weekend will result in the loss of quality of life.

        I will repeat…LOSS OF QUALITY OF LIFE. The last long weekend of the summer was robbed of the residents…the home owners….the tax payers.

        The fact that you use the term “rant” says you have an invested interest. Enough said. Also you are taking this very personally so I expect this little internet pissing contest will not end here.

        My guess is you haven’t even bothered to look at the site because if you had you would see the complete lack of consideration for the neighborhood. The RCMP told us the event was at the high school. The high school has a parking lot right in front of the school entrance. The school could have had the RV’s park there which would have given a buffer of an alley, then a parking lot, then a street, between the residential neighborhood and the RV’s. My guess a minimum of a couple of 100 meters. Instead they parked the RV’s right up the backside of the residential properties. Screw the residents.

        Here is another thing to consider, why does Red Deer even have a bylaw allowing this. This isn’t some hick town with nowhere to stay. All a policy like this does is keep people from spending when they come into Red Deer. There is NO point to tourism if it doesn’t bring in cash; all it does is put a strain on infrastructure. They don’t pay for hotels, they don’t pay for campgrounds, they don’t eat out. They stay holed up in their little tin can palaces, eating food and drinking booze they brought from home. What does Red Deer have to possibly gain from this sort of policy.

        ….and I am not exactly a hypocrite when the facility being used was the public school (doesn’t the cash for the building come from provincial funding set aside for educational facilities?) and my picnic tables and skating rink come from municipal funding (probably parks and rec).

        oh, and the bylaw does say “a self-contained trailer”….”a”…singular…one….uno….une

        (why the hiding behind the avatar?)

  2. ALSO – in support of Debra, there has been a problem with burglaries lately. Now obviously it wasn’t these people, but when residents are already on guard and fearful, it feels rather unnerving to have a mini-town of strangers pop up in your back yard unannounced, especially if you had planned on being away for the weekend. Why couldn’t residents have been made aware? Why couldn’t they have provided more security? Is common courtesy to much to ask if you are a lowly resident of this city?

  3. Post on facebook made within the last half hour:
    “Help we have punk kidds constantly doing burnouts donuts behind memorial center where gun range is there peppering parked cars with rocks and its happening right this second its getting so annoying thx this one is white truck with us flag in back side windows”

    • I hope everyone will keep this dialogue going and bring to light the issues our communities face.

      Remember…election coming up.

      Let’s fix Red Deer.

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