Park parking lots were busy in South Surrey Sunday, raising concerns for some. (Contributed photo)

Weekend crowds at South Surrey parks, waterfront cause concern

Crescent Beach among 106 locations visited by RCMP, city COVID-19 team Sunday

Sunday’s sunshine was a bright light in a dreary time, but it raised concerns for some on the Semiahmoo Peninsula after crowds flocked to local parks and waterfronts.

Surrey RCMP were notified of packed parking lots and a lack of social distancing at Sunnyside Acres, Elgin Heritage Park, Crescent Beach and the Semiahmoo First Nation lot at East Beach.

“RCMP did attend the beach,” Cpl. Elenore Sturko confirmed Monday morning. “From what I understand, they had been there earlier in the day even prior to the social media concerns.

“Bylaw also separately attended.”

According to a news release issued by police Monday afternoon, members of the COVID-19 Compliance & Enforcement Team – made up of Surrey police and bylaw officers – conducted checks of 106 locations across Surrey and issued seven warnings.

“They also responded to 13 calls for service related to the mandatory health orders,” the release adds, noting also that while no fines were issued, follow-up will be done to ensure compliance.

Regarding concerns fielded about Crescent Beach, the team “attended the beach at various times throughout the day, and while the beach and promenade were busy, those who were in the area were observed to be following physical distancing expectations,” it states.

Sunday, a tweet to the City of Surrey and Coun. Linda Annis from a resident notes it took 10 minutes for her to find parking that day after someone took the spot in front of her Crescent Beach home.

“Crescent Beach is a madhouse today. Absolutely packed,” Amanda Wawryk tweeted at around 2 p.m. March 29. “This is ridiculous.”

Annis tweeted an hour later that RCMP had been dispatched, and “pro-active patrols will be ongoing now, particularly when it’s good weather.”

In an email to Peace Arch News, Janet Bracewell described traffic along Crescent Road as “as busy as any summer weekend, presumably people heading to/from Crescent Beach.”

Bracewell appealed to Surrey council to follow Vancouver’s lead and impose more restrictions.

“Vancouver has closed their parks and it looks like it is now time to close ours as the message of social distancing does not appear to be getting through to everyone,” she writes.

Holden and Jen Hoogland also emailed their concerns to PAN Sunday, encouraging a shutdown of private-pay parking lots.

“It is so upsetting that people are not taking (social-distancing) seriously,” they wrote.

Last Thursday (March 26), Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth issued a series of ministerial orders as part of his powers under the Emergency Program Act, including bylaw enforcement that would enable “municipal bylaw officers to support enforcement of the provincial health officer’s orders for business closures and gatherings, in line with offences under the Public Health Act.”

READ MORE: COVID-19: Surrey working on plan for bylaw enforcement in light of Farnworth’s orders

Asked at that time if the city would be using bylaw officers to enforce social-distancing rules, City of Surrey communications officials told Black Press Media that Farnworth’s orders “just recently came out and everything is being worked out.”

“Things are changing quickly, right,” Amber Stowe said.

The COVID-19 Compliance & Enforcement Team was launched late last week, with a goal “to ensure all Surrey residents and business owners understand their personal obligations to stop the spread of COVID-19,” according to Monday’s news release.

“Members will continue to focus on voluntary compliance of these health orders. If required, municipal fines or other penalties may be enforced against non-compliant persons or businesses.”

Sunday was not the first time that residents have voiced concerns about a lack of social distancing in Surrey, where everything from a “full-blown” soccer game at a park to alleged wedding celebrations have been reported in recent weeks.

Similar concerns have also been heard in White Rock, where council voted last week to close the city’s iconic pier and waterfront parking lots as part of efforts to reduce the number of visitors to the area.

READ MORE: White Rock council votes to close pier to the public amid COVID-19 concerns

Monday’s news release advises those who want to report a violation of a public health order in Surrey, to call the city’s bylaw call centre at 604-591-4370. The line is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

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