Once upon a time, long long ago and far far away there was a beautiful kingdom……………………………………
(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
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 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:
Pretty 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:
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:
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………
Way 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…..in a real tent…..just saying)
And then we have this picture………
I 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…..so 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.