The City of Red Deer will make sign changes at Heritage Ranch after a woman complained that her family and their vehicle got locked inside the gates on Saturday evening.
Lea Lavallee said she, her husband and two children drove into Heritage Ranch at about 6:50 p.m., parked and took a quick walk. Leaving the lot at 7 p.m., they found the gate had been locked. People in six other vehicles also found their exit blocked.
“It doesn’t say the gates will be locked,” Lavallee said this week, adding that there is a sign with “business hours” that end at 5:30 p.m.
Lavallee and her husband confronted a man they believe works at Heritage Ranch. He said the city closes the gates at 5:30 p.m. and that someone from the city would have to come down to let them all out, Lavallee said. About 35 minutes later, he reappeared and let them out himself, she said.
Lavallee complained to the City of Red Deer, which owns the land and contracts out operation of Heritage Ranch services, about the lack of signage and problems with the man. She wanted to know whose responsibility it was to look after the gates and why they were locked out.
“Personally, I won’t be back at Heritage Ranch. We were treated terribly there.”
The city responded on Monday afternoon by putting up temporary signage at Heritage Ranch regarding the gates, with permanent signage expected in the future with a contact telephone number in case people find themselves locked in.
“In following up with complaint, we do certainly agree that the sign is not specific enough that the gates are locked at 5:30,” said City of Red Deer recreation superintendent Kay Kenny. “There certainly could be some misinterpretation of the intent there.”
Kenny said they would look at expanding the parking lot’s hours and also look into new ways to provide security to the facility and its animals without necessarily locking the gates to visitors.
The city delivered a letter to the contractor who operates Heritage Ranch on Monday, telling him that what happened was “not acceptable.”
The city will in the future monitor that the gates are locked when they’re supposed to, Kenny added.
“This is really unfortunate for the people who were in there and it really resulted from the operator of the facility not locking the gates on time.”
The current operator’s contract expires at the end of the month and he didn’t submit a proposal to get a new one, Kenny said. A Lacombe man will take over operations next month.
The current operator could not be reached for comment.