It’s a pristine, beautiful area of the North Okanagan.
And Jeff and Louise (Weezie) Nielson work hard to keep it that way.
Weezie Nielson is the park operator and does administration at Mabel Lake Provincial Park near Lumby. Jeff is the park manager. For the last three years the couple have been working hard to make the provincial park a treasure to visit. And for the most part, their efforts are paying off.
“We continually receive overwhelming comments on how beautiful the park looks and how much the campers appreciate the care taken here to keep it clean and well-maintained for families,” said Weezie, the nickname everyone in the area knows her as. “We resurfaced (or replaced) the picnic tables in the entire Monashee and Trinity areas, and replaced all overflow and playground tables with brand new boards.”
So, you can imagine, then, the extreme disappointment the Nielsons feel over a rash of vandalism that has struck the park.
The latest came in the wee hours of Sunday, when what is believed to be a quad machine ripped up the lawn in the overflow day use lot, and every picnic table save one was senselessly vandalized.
“Last week we replaced the vandalized tables with brand new boards and that was after the winter where every brand new table in overflow was vandalized by someone carving profanities into it,” said Nielson. “A bathroom was vandalized with piles of feces and soiled diapers.
“The winter table vandalism was very bad and we could not get our board order delivered quick enough, so at the fishing derby this spring, they had to cover all of the tables to hide the profanity carved from all of the children attending.”
A single board, said Nielson, costs $200. So five boards a table means $1,000 per table plus labour, and the time required to repair this vandalism takes the Nielsons away from other areas of the park needing attention.
The Nielsons believe Sunday’s incident happened between 2 a.m. and 2:10 a.m., according to witnesses they spoke to, and they believe the suspects accessed the park via a private cabin road from the cabins south of the marina store.
“This is really sad,” said Nielson, adding the couple have filed a report with the RCMP, so if anyone has any information they can call the local detachment or Crime Stoppers, anonymously, at 1-800-222-8477.
“Someone around here knows who keeps doing this. Please talk some sense into them, and remind them that this park belongs to YOU too.”
In an effort to help local residents in regards to the park, the Nielsons launched a Facebook page in May, and provide up-to-date information for first-come, first-serve campers only.
“In the past, campers would drive all the way out here, not knowing in advance how busy the park was or if there were even sites open,” said Nielson. “I post on our page seven days a week (often several times a day when we are busy so people know exactly what they are driving to).