Fearing backlash, residents wouldn't let OPP use properties to access Beaver River

·2 min read

While attempting to conduct enforcement along the Beaver River in late August, OPP had to leave The Blue Mountains to find river access. According to OPP, local residents would not provide the Collingwood/Blue Mountains OPP access to their properties, which forced officers to access the river through property in the Municipality of Grey Highlands.

“We attempted to secure access from a couple of individuals' properties in areas where we could actually just walk into the water to conduct further enforcement and it was interesting to see the backlash on social media,” said Inspector Mary Shannon, detachment commander for Collingwood/Town of the Blue Mountains OPP.

“People initially supported granting us access from their property and quickly rescinded when they saw the pressure on social media to not support the police in any enforcement on the Beaver River,” she said during a recently held Town of The Blue Mountains Police Services Board (PSB) meeting.

On Aug. 22 and 23, an OPP constable and a resource conservation officer partnered up to conduct patrol along the Beaver River from Heathcote to Slabtown in The Blue Mountains (TBM).

Kevin Cornell, administration sergeant for the Collingwood/TBM OPP detachment explained that he spoke with all of the landowners whose properties back onto the Beaver River system in the targeted area.

“All very supportive of our efforts, but not one [resident] granted permission for us to access the river, again afraid of the backlash from social media,” he said. “With the assistance of Shawn Everitt [TBM CAO] and Ryan Gibbons [director of community services of TBM], we located an area, which is actually in the Grey Highlands, where we could conduct the foot patrol enforcement.”

TBM Mayor Alar Soever said he also saw the related commentary online.

“It's unfortunate that there's a very small minority of people that get in the way of good initiatives,” Soever said. “Nobody wants to get in the way of people having a good time on the river. But, when alcohol is involved, it's not conducive to a good experience for anyone.”

Soever also noted that TBM town council and staff have been discussing the need for better access points to the river in TBM.

“We need to establish some parking lots and facilities along the river so that access is more regulated, and then those areas could be the source of enforcement,” he said.

OPP officers also conducted enforcement along the river utilizing a flat-bottom boat with a surface drive to traverse the numerous shallow areas.

Over the duration of the two days, officers laid a total of 26 Liquor License Act charges.

“It's obviously something that needs to be done. The number of charges that were laid is a reflection of that,” said police services board chair, Jim Oliver.

The board noted the need to discuss annual enforcement of the Beaver River ahead of summer 2021.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca