RM closes Peter Pond Road to fight crime
Some residents doubtful plan will have any impact
The RM of Buckland has closed a road they contend was frequented by drug users and sex workers, but some residents aren’t convinced.
A few weeks ago the RM closed Peter Pond Road to traffic, putting up a roadblock a short ways from the main road. According to Reeve Don Fyrk, the decision was made at the request of a handful of residents who said the area was rife with crime.
“Criminal activity was going on, and there was garbage everywhere. But mostly it was done for crime prevention,” he said.
“We had some people that were scared to live out there and threatening to move back to the city, and we had some people who were scared to walk down that road. We had one neighbour that was cleaning up garbage all the time and there were needles. There were prostitutes taking their johns down there and doing their business. We have witnesses to that. One gal that works at Pinegrove recognized some of the prostitutes and said that made her very nervous. She wouldn’t walk down there anymore.”
Still, one local resident isn’t buying it. Lawrence Zepp is the president of the Peter Pond Historical Association and an avid fisherman. He’s frustrated by the road closure because it prevents him from fishing in one of his favourite spots. “It’s too far to walk,” Zepp said. “If you want to fish, you need to walk.”
Zepp says he has never seen a needle down by the river, and has rarely witnessed crime, only fishing.
But Zepp’s concerns run deeper. Peter Pond is named after a fur trader and one of the founders of the North West Trading Company. He established a fur trading post at that the river, where Peter Pond road is today, long before Prince Albert ever existed.
In the 1930s, the federal government excavated the site for study. A cairn was erected to mark the spot.
According to Fyrk, Parks Canada moved the site of the Cairn to the side of the main road, where it rests today, after the riverbanks started collapsing.
But Zepp likes to visit the original site, and the roadblock, he says, prevents that from happening.
“It’s our history,” he said.
Some of those sentiments are shared by fishermen who now park their cars by the cairn and hike the rest of the way to the riverbank.
A fisherman out Sunday night, Dwayne, who declined to give his last name, used to take his mother down by the riverbank.
“I took my mom down here years ago. She was able to come down, now she’s too old to walk down to see the river. It kind of takes away from our history.”
Neither Dwayne nor his buddies had seen much in the way of crime in their 20-plus years of fishing at the end of Peter Pond road. Occasionally people would have a fire and a beer. They didn’t see any prostitution or drug use.
But, they agreed, since the road blocks were put into place, there has been much less “riff raff” down.
For now, the roadblock appears to be here to stay. Most of the crime, Reeve Fyrk said, happened at night or early in the morning after fishermen had gone home. Since putting up the roadblock, he’s had positive feedback from neighbours living in the area.
“Now fishermen aren’t afraid to leave their vehicles at the top. When they were down there fishing before, people would go down and break into their vehicles and steal stuff,” Fyrk said.
“I talked to one resident and he said the traffic is now half. We’re not getting the scuzzies out here driving around anymore.”
To his critics, Fyrk said the MD had to act.
“It’s preventative,” he said. “I’m not going to sit back and wait for something serious to happen. This is a first step in preventing crime in the area and people have to realize that.”
The RM of Buckland has closed Peter Pond road after residents complained the area was unsafe and used by criminals.
The cairn memorializing Peter Pond was moved to the side of the old Shellbrook Highway. Peter Pond had a historic trading post in the area.