Car break-ins were common before Park Watch founded in 2001. The organization said it eliminated break-ins whenever its staff was on duty. (File)

Guardians leaving parks on Vancouver Island’s south coast for good

Juan de Fuca Park Watch folds due, in part, to people not carrying cash any more

The friendly, watchful faces that have graced park parking lot along Juan de Fuca Strait for nearly two decades won’t be there to greet you next year.

The Juan de Fuca Regional Park Watch Society, the non-profit organization that for 19 years has provided security at parks along Vancouver Island’s south coast, is no more.

Its demise, in part, comes as a result that people don’t carry money any more.

“About half of our funding has always come from the donation boxes we had when we provided security in park parking lots, but people don’t carry cash these days and those donations have gone way down,” said Lavyna Alexander, the operations manager for Park Watch.

“Last year alone, those donations were down more than $20,000.”

In a letter to Sooke council, the organization said it ceased operations and would not be operating in 2020, citing an anticipated funding shortfall as the main cause of the decision to end the service.

RELATED: On patrol for 19 years

And while Park Watch has in the past been the beneficiary of some funding from the District of Sooke, the Capital Regional District, and even ICBC, the donation box monies were critical to the organization’s survival.

“We could see that the situation was not going to improve, so it was time (to stop operations),” Alexander said.

The society has operated a Park Watch Patrol program from May to September focused on preventing theft from vehicles, break-ins and vandalism, while providing information and support to visitors.

Sgt. Clayton Wiebe of the Sooke RCMP said the service will be missed.

“It was great having the extra eyes out there,” Weibe said. “Before Park Watch, hikers would leave their cars and return to find that they’d been the victims of a break-in and theft.”

That history of thefts from cars was the original impetus for creating the organization.

“In 2000, there were 111 car break-ins in our parks. We created Park Watch and the next year that number dropped to 61 and it’s been going down ever since,” Alexander said.

“There has not been a single car break-in when we were on duty.”

She added that there had been a similar experience with thefts from park users as in 2000 there had been 81 such thefts reported.

“The very next year those thefts dropped from 81 to 14, and those happened when we were not on duty in the parks.”

READ ALSO: Juan de Fuca Marine Trail closure leaves Port Renfrew in the cold

Alexander said Park Watch also evolved to provide more than a security service for park users.

“We offered assistance including tourism information, first response first aid, information about the park being visited and attractions in the local area,” she said. “We were really the ambassadors for the parks, interacting with visitors to provide information … everything they needed to know for their park visit.”

She recalled instances when the Park Watch staff had also helped with getting assistance when visitor’s cars experienced mechanical problems. On other occasions, the staff had ferried visitors to where cell service was available so that those visitors could call for help themselves.



mailto:tim.collins@sookenewsmirror.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Just Posted

COLUMN: There good is there, you just have to look

The news can make us pessimistic and jaded, but good people and stories are out there

UPDATED: Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Saanich’s 20-year-old acting mayor encourages other young people get involved in politics

There is a ‘hunger for young voices’ in politics right now

Saanich School District parents welcome end of strike

Various sides of support worker strike acknowledge remaining tensions

Victoria councillors consider 55 per cent raise

Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO says councillors are ‘absolutely not’ city employees

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

Harbour authority to honour Victoria sailor Jeanne Socrates with naming ceremony

In September Socrates became the oldest person to sail around the world in a solo, unassisted trip

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Saanich resident calling for gas powered leaf blower ban finds support as autumn leaves fall

‘Cities don’t need to be noisy and happiness and wellbeing should be a priority,’ says the resident

Escaped Metchosin inmate sentenced to additional year tacked on to 14-year sentence

Man escaped from William Head Institution arrested days late in Esquimalt

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Sentencing scheduled Tuesday for man who killed Belgian tourist

Sean McKenzie pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of 28-year-old Amelie Sakkalis near Boston Bar

Most Read