Stave Lake is becoming more family friendly after an RCMP crackdown.

Police presence calms Stave Lake

Mounties' presence in area reducing wild parties, illegal gun use.

The west side of Stave Lake is beginning to shape up into a family destination, after years of struggling with a reputation as an area for wild parties and illegal gun use.

Since April, Mission Mounties have been stepping up their patrols in the area, and returned to the area over Labour Day long weekend.

Police have talked to hundreds of people in the area this year and issued about 200 warnings and 29 violation tickets so far this year, not including statistics from August, which are not yet available.

The violation tickets were mostly given to people who didn’t have appropriate insurance for the dirt bike or ATV they were riding, explained Sgt. Shaun Wright, noting riders need to have $200,000 liability insurance to operate a motor vehicle on a forest service road. Over the long weekend, officers issued a dozen tickets.

Despite many off-road enthusiasts using the mud flats area over the long weekend, no major incidents were reported.

Police have seized a few restricted firearms, but reports of people target shooting in the area are down significantly.

“In the spring, there were several locations along Burma where we would stop and interact with people who were setting up or intending to target shoot,” said Wright.

That has changed. Police did not encounter anyone shooting over the long weekend.

“Our educational efforts are having an effect,” said Wright.

Mission’s forestry director Bob O’Neal also credits the Mounties for making a difference.

“When you see uniforms up there, it sends a message that the District of Mission is sincere in cleaning it up,” said O’Neal, who has been hearing positive feedback from families camping in the area.

In addition to checks on the road, police are also riding their ATVs in the bush and patrolling the lake in their boat to make sure people using the area are carrying adequate safety equipment.

While things have improved, both Wright and O’Neal say there is still a lot of work to do to fully transform the area to a family-friendly destination.

Problems that still need to be addressed are garbage being dumped, excessive alcohol consumption, and camping in the mud flat area.

But these are not just policing issues.

The community needs to determine a vision for the area and put a strategy together, said Wright. “Police definitely play a component, but we don’t determine the usage of specific recreation sites.”

“We’re working on establishing Mission’s interpretive forest as a destination for people to come to, and cleaning the area up is really part of the process,” added O’Neal.

Earlier this year in January, O’Neal described the scene on the west side of Stave Lake as one out of the “wild, wild west.” ATVs and dirt bikes were being operated in an unsafe manner and road signs and bridge delineators were shot up. Outhouses and picnic areas were damaged, vehicles were burned and trees were riddled with bullet holes. Target shooting is prohibited throughout Mission, except at a legal shooting range.

The District of Mission is working on developing a Recreation Master Plan for Stave West. Open houses were held in June and the next ones are set for Nov. 19 at Fire Hall No. 2 (30514 Dewdney Trunk Rd.) from 7 to 9 p.m., and Nov. 20 at the Mission Leisure Centre (7650 Grand St.) from 7 to 9 p.m. and Nov. 22 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.

For more information visit www.mission.ca/forestry/stavewest.