His great, great grandfather, Samuel Polson, donated the land to the city more than 100 years ago for a park that would become the heart of Vernon.
Now, Vernon’s Lee Polson is among hundreds of citizens frustrated with what the park bearing his family name has become: a haven for the homeless and drug users, and leaving many residents feeling unsafe about venturing into Polson Park.
“It’s not just a homeless issue; the biggest issue is the drug use and drug paraphernalia leftover,” said Polson, a father of two young boys, who said, personally, he doesn’t feel unsafe when in the park but understands those that do.
“You have to deal with people who have mental health issues. You could get into an altercation with someone who has mental health or drug issues, and are not of clear mind to think properly.”
At least one daycare operation in Vernon has decided against bringing kids to the park for safety reasons.
A shooting occurred in the park two weeks ago in mid-afternoon just as pictures from a Vernon high school’s graduation class was wrapping up. One man was injured in the shooting.
The Supreme Court of B.C. has ruled it is a human right to camp in a public park if no shelter space exists.
Vernon council allows the temporary shelter in Polson Park and other designated public spaces from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m. when shelter beds are not available.
Polson said he is frustrated with the situation, and expressed that frustration in a phone call with Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund.
“I had a good talk with him and I know their hands are tied,” said Polson, who wants to work with the city to find a solution to the problem.
“We need to stop talking about it and start doing something about it,” said Polson, who is among more than 800 people (as of 1 p.m. Thursday) who have signed an online petition called Make Polson Park Safe Again, organized by a group calling itself Concerned Citizens of Vernon, British Columbia.
“Why is it that we are allowing 30 or so tents to shelter transients along the (park’s) boardwalk?” states the petition, which can be viewed and signed at change.org.
“It seems that everyday, if somebody isn’t calling 911 because of a shooting or an overdose, there’s people getting high in the toilet stalls central to the family-oriented area of the park.
“People are feeling less and less safe about bringing their children there.”
The petition calls for the boardwalk area to be either fenced off, or have the homeless placed in an area that “isn’t making the signature park a safety issue for the children.”