Red Deer County’s crackdown on river rafting rowdies and illegal parking is paying off.
County patrol officer Bob Marsh reported few problems Sunday at Fort Normandeau where a steady stream of people took advantage of the first real summer scorcher to hit the river in their inflatables.
“We’re seeing a decline in the amount of alcohol infractions,” said Marsh, as he kept a watch on the parking lot and checked coolers.
“When the season first started we were getting household coolers full of alcohol.
“People have been very compliant, and they understand.”
The patrol will have a presence at the boat launch all summer. Security has also been beefed up with a pair of commissionaires, who help keep an eye on the parking lot and ensure there is no illegal parking.
One of the biggest changes this year has been the posting of no parking signs along the road into Fort Normandeau. In past years, the road was lined with vehicles on a sunny day raising safety and traffic concerns.
Area residents were also frustrated by the sometimes unruly behaviour of the rafting crowd.
On Canada Day last year vehicles were parked a considerable way down the road, past a number of homes. “It was a situation that was totally out of control,” he said.
On Sunday, the parking lot was filled, but everyone there seemed to be looking only to have a little river fun, not to party too hard.
Darius Engen brought his son Logan, eight, and daughter Kayla, six, down to Fort Normandeau to float down the river as far as Three Mile Bend.
While there will always be a few teenage partiers, many families use the river for recreation and are just looking to have fun, he said.
“It’s just a good thing to go and do on a nice, hot day.”
The biggest knock on the Fort Normandeau site is a lack of parking, he said.
“It definitely seems this is a launch site and Three Mile Bend is a pickup site. They definitely need more parking here.”
Jon Haley discovered the cost of parking illegally the hard way last year when his vehicle was towed from a spot near the Hwy 2 bridge over the river. It cost $300 to get his vehicle back.
“It happened to me twice and to my buddy twice,” he said. The reason people ended up at the bridge was that there was no parking available at the fort, he said.
The City of Red Deer and county are working on adding more parking at Fort Normandeau.
Mayor Morris Flewwelling said Saturday he anticipates the county will give the final readings to a bylaw allowing the city to lease land near the existing parking lot to add 135 more spaces. The parking lot will be ready later this year.
Jim Robertson, manager of Waskasoo Park Interpretive Programs, said the additional security at Fort Normandeau is working. Earlier in the season, a few vehicles were towed from the road, but people now seem to be getting the message. The gates to the fort are also being closed at 10 p.m. to stop late-night partying.
Trevor Poth, the city’s parks superintendent, said the city has tried to combine more enforcement with additional public education to reduce problems on the river. Brochures have been handed out with safety information and the locations of various boat launches around the city.
“What I have heard is things are working a bit smoother this year.”
Marsh was pleased to see families had life jackets for their children, although a few adults haven’t been using them, which is a mistake.
“The river isn’t as tranquil as it looks. There are lots of trees that are submerged. If you (fall in and) get caught up in those, you’re done.”