At 12:45 p.m. Tuesday, one male and one female teenager walked into the park at the end of Wood Street, sat on a footbridge and cracked open a few bottles of alcohol.
It was broad daylight, in the middle of the week, and it was nothing new.
The Teegatha’oh Zheh Park, and its adjoining path network at the base of the clay cliffs in downtown Whitehorse, has long been a haven for alcoholics camping in the bush and young teenagers looking for a place to party.
But now things have finally gone too far, said Doreen Bicknell.
This past weekend, fires were set in the park. A charred section of the boardwalk and a blacked design in the grass accented a party spot a little further into the park, where trees were cut to form a square of benches around a fire pit.
Empty vodka bottles littered the spot, along with a broken Budweiser box. An empty package of Huggies diapers was included among the mess.
Bicknell has lived beside the entrance to the park for more than four years.
The fight against drinking and vandalism in the downtown greenspace has been going on long before that, she said.
“It’s just getting out of control,” she said. “It wasn’t that there was a little fire started and put out – it was 10 to 12 different spots that I saw. It looks like they were definitely trying to start fires.”
Seeing people drinking in the park is normal for Bicknell and her family, who walk their two dogs there twice a day.
She always says, “Hi” to the people there, she said, adding she never feels scared to walk in the park, although she prefers to have her dogs with her and does avoid the area on Friday and Saturday nights.
After the weekend, her eight-year-old son asked her why someone started fires and burned parts of the park.
Bicknell didn’t know what to tell him.
The fire department couldn’t confirm who set the fires. Damages are around $500, said Fire Chief Clive Sparks, adding that it would be very unlikely for any fires in the park to spread to nearby houses, even in a hot, dry season.
The municipality estimates repairs to cost taxpayers about $5,000, according to a news release issued Tuesday.
Bicknell and her family are asking neighbours to join them in the park this Friday at 5:30 p.m. for a community meeting to discuss what to do next.
“Now that my son’s getting a bit older, he’s going to start running around in that area without us there,” she said looking down and taking a deep breath.
“I’ve always been concerned, but now it’s more of an issue. With kids partying I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at firstname.lastname@example.org