My perspective - This is why we can't have nice things


By Kate Jackman-Atkinson

Neepawa Banner & Press

On Friday, Neepawa area residents received some news that seems to have become all too common. At around lunch time, the Town announced that the change rooms at the Flats would be closed to the public and locked for the weekend, following another incident of graffiti. Despite cameras, problems with graffiti and vandalism at the site have been ongoing.

At the Dec. 18 meeting, which is taking place after this week’s print deadline, Neepawa council was to decide whether the facility would even be reopened to the public. The all-season washroom and change rooms were built in 2012 and in winter, provide a warm and dry place for people to change into their skates, skis or snow shoes.

It’s the second time this year the area has been vandalized. In March, vandals destroyed all five of the skate assist trainers, the frames that give new skaters added stability as they learn to skate. These had been built by the Town and left at the Flats for people to use as needed.

In the 12 years I’ve been here, each year, there seems to be one or two incidents of vandalism. Planters have been tipped over, buildings have been spray painted and if I recall correctly, an outhouse once went missing. This year, the incidents seem to have been both more frequent and more destructive. It’s especially sad because the majority of the targets have been local not-for-profit organizations and facilities that provide recreational activities to area youth.

The Neepawa & Area Cross Country Ski association’s cabin has also been hit twice this year. In March, the cabin’s windows were broken and some of the building’s contents were burned in the stove. In early fall, the cabin was vandalized again. This time, they broke the only window that wasn’t previously broken, tore down the stove pipe and put all the pots down the outhouse. Not only is the cabin used by skiers, it’s also used by tobogganers as a place to warm up and socialize. Membership fees collected by the organization barely keep their grooming equipment going, leaving little money to pay for extras, like new windows or pots.

In mid-November, the Yellowhead Bowhunters’ outdoor facility was broken into and all of their youth and adult equipment was stolen. Some of this equipment was purchased thanks to grants and most of it was used by those new to the sport.

In each case, the RCMP was notified, but the investigation haven’t yet resulted in any charges being laid.

According to Statistics Canada, there were more than one million property crime violations in Canada in 2013. It’s the most common type of crime, accounting for half of all reported offences. A 2014 Fraser Institute report estimated that Canadians spent over $85 billion a year being victimized by, catching and punishing criminals. The victim’s actual losses accounted for about half of that value. Despite the prevalence, we don’t think of things like this happening in our little town.

Acts like these make our community less. They mean that we have less to offer our residents and visitors. They mean that we have less volunteer capacity, as those who have given their time, their talent, their energy and oftentimes, their money, have to spend it all again rebuilding what we once had, instead of adding something new. These volunteers, who we so desperately need, become demoralized and it’s not hard to see why.

Is this a blip? I hope so, but more than that, I hope we don’t allows these incidents to define our community, to dictate what we do or don’t have. We are greater than the petty, disruptive work of a few.