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Ball field brawl has Chetwynd pondering parks policy

A rained out ball tournament in Chetwynd earlier this spring devolved into a ball field brawl involving out of town players.
After a brawl during a cancelled ball tournament, the District of Chetwynd is considering a new policy to formally put in place behavioral expectations at public parks.

A rained out ball tournament in Chetwynd earlier this spring devolved into a ball field brawl involving out of town players.

Now, the district is mulling a parks use policy that will help the RCMP curb excessive drinking, fighting and vandalism on public grounds at future events.

Although the May 30 incident that spurred the policy is tied to the town's ball fields, located by the Chetwynd and District Recreation Centre, the policy could have implications for all public parks, including Spirit Park, which has been known in the past to be a hub of criminal activity.

Chetwynd RCMP Cpl. Scott Clay said the incident in question involved a fight between several adults who were believed to be involved with the ball tournament, which had been cancelled due to poor weather.

Two people came out of the fight with minor injuries and were treated by medics at the scene. One was arrested. The matter is currently before the courts.

“It’s my understanding that they were involved in the ball tournament, but, because it didn’t happen during [a game], it’s hard to say that accurately,” Clay said.

According to other sources, when the tournament was rained out, “because they didn’t have to play baseball, they decided to party instead."

The brawl spurred the local RCMP and the District of Chetwynd to develop a policy that will clearly state what behaviour is not acceptable on public grounds.

“It makes the user aware of what the expectation of their conduct is,” Clay said.

“If you look at a thing like a baseball tournament where people are coming in from out of town and maybe camping or RVing in the area for the night, usually there is the normal things that you would do at home that go along with that, be it barbecuing or having a beer.”

Although this is socially accepted, it may not be allowed in some areas, Clay added.

“Clearly spelling out to the users what the expected level of conduct and behaviour is takes away any misconception should enforcement need to be taken," Clay said.

That may not mean an outright ban on drinking.

A draft of the policy put forward at the Aug. 10 Chetwynd council meeting sought to prevent people from engaging in actions that could result in police involvement, including excessive alcohol consumption, littering, fighting and vandalizing or damaging property belonging to the district.

That draft policy, however, was voted down. A new policy is being developed and will come before council at a future meeting.

Officials with the district could not say when they thought that would be.

“This one incident is about the only thing any of us can remember ever happening,” Chetwynd’s deputy Chief Administrative Officer Carol Newsom told the Alaska Highway News. “So we didn't have a [parks use] policy in place. We only had a policy for renting [the fields].”

The Chetwynd Recreational Softball Society manages bookings at the fields and monitors its use. Newsom says the hope is that the development of a policy will formalize their role in partnership with the district and, at the same time, establish what kind of behaviour is not acceptable in a public park.

“Council thought that [the policy] needed more work so we’re going to go back over it with the RCMP to see if we can tighten it up,” she said.

Councillors who voted against the policy reportedly thought it was made redundant by the Criminal Code of Canada.

“We’re involving the RCMP because we want to make sure that we aren’t redundant,” Newsom said.

“We’re working together to rework it and come up with something that meets everybody’s guidelines and will help everyone do their job.”