Escalating lawlessness and mayhem from young partiers at Cat Lake this summer has prompted officials to adopt a zero-tolerance policy toward unruly behaviour at the Squamish-area Ministry of Forests (MOF) campground and recreation area.
The first night of the crackdown on Friday (July 27) saw RCMP officers help MOF officials evict 37 young partiers from the site. An MOF official this week said the zero-tolerance approach would continue during the upcoming August long weekend as part of an effort to ensure others' peaceful enjoyment of the lake and its surroundings.
Alistair McCrone, recreation officer with the Sea to Sky Recreation District of the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, on Wednesday (Aug. 1) said Cat Lake is a lovely spot that can and should be enjoyed by those of all ages.
“It's one of our real assets here. I want to restore it to the type of place where people feel safe to go,” McCrone said.
However, he said, “The situation had gotten to the point where families won't go and camp there because of the behaviour. We're getting a lot of vandalism, violence and threatening behaviour and the situation has escalated over the summer.”
Last Friday between 11 a.m. and 3 a.m., four groups of campers were evicted for possession of marijuana, underage drinking, providing alcohol to a minor and causing a disturbance, McCrone wrote in a statement emailed to The Chief.
In a telephone interview, McCrone said the campers all appeared to be between 16 and 25, with a significant number of them under 18.
“There was one group that were underage and all were in possession of marijuana and were drinking,” he said.
As a provincial recreation officer, McCrone only has the authority to evict campers engaging in rowdy or unlawful behaviour. While the RCMP officers who attended last weekend chose not to pursue charges against any of the 37 people evicted, they do have discretion to prosecute those who engage in illegal activity, he said.
“We've tried to control these people through warnings and education, but we've gotten to the point where we've had to involve the RCMP. We've tried to act in a friendly manner but now we're having to adopt a zero tolerance policy.”
Conservation officers were to be present on Friday and Saturday (Aug. 3 and 4) and the RCMP planned to do random site visits “as their resources allow” throughout the long weekend to ensure a safe, lawful weekend at the lake, McCrone said on Friday.
This isn't the first time rowdy and unlawful behaviour has been an issue at Cat Lake. McCrone, who has only been on the job since last September, said others have told him of stabbings and other mayhem there in the past. That image has obviously carried over to the present day, to the point where Cat Lake is now widely reputed on social media as a place to party, he said.
For that reason many families have chosen to stay away. On July 16, a person who had recently camped at the lake posted this review on www.yelp.ca:
“Absolutely beautiful lake and weather was wonderful! That being said, we would definitely NOT go back again. We have two young kids and this camping place is not appropriate at all for a fun family weekend getaway.
“[Staff at] Alice Lake recommended it because they were full but it's not suitable at all for kids or for those that like sleep. Loads of young party campers, 24-hour drinking and pot smoking on sites, beaches, on lake, on trails and everywhere. Music was loud on Friday night from 11 p.m. until about 4 a.m.
“Saturday was even worst [sic] with an organized… rave from 11 p.m. until the cops arrived at about 2 a.m. after multiple complaints about noise. We didn't feel safe leaving in the middle of the night with our kids otherwise we would have abandoned ship! It's too bad so many young partiers are destroying such a beautiful place with drinking, drugs, litter and toilet paper all over in the bushes! Ugh!”
McCrone said the decision to crack down is “not a knee-jerk reaction in any way. There has an effort to educate the users and that effort has failed, so we've had to respond with this zero-tolerance policy.”