Parks gear up for May long weekend

Lisa Goudy/Times-Herald

Law enforcement out in full force, looking for ‘big four’ driving infractions

It’s that time of year again.

The days are getting longer, the weather is – at least in theory – getting warmer, and Moose Javians are heading for the hills and enjoying the first long weekend of the summer.

“It’s an exciting time of the year,” said Ken Cheveldayoff, Minister of Parks, Culture and Sport, adding that last year broke records in terms of how many people took advantage of the provincial parks. “We had four million visits in 2016. They continue to grow and we’re very proud of them.”

Moose Jaw residents have a plethora of options for getting out and celebrating the long weekend, including the popular Buffalo Pound Provincial Park, but there are some restrictions on those celebrations. The usual alcohol ban has been imposed in the parks from Thursday to Monday, May 22, inclusive.

Cheveldayoff said the ban has been in place for about a decade and that people are well-used to it. As for why this weekend is deemed dry and not others, he said as it’s the first one of the season, people have gone a little overboard in the past.

“It’s a time when we’ve seen some over-exuberance,” he said, noting that campsites are still very well monitored throughout the summer.

That over-exuberance can be seen in more than just the parks.

MJPS Cpl. Kevin Pilsworth said the police are bringing in extra officers this weekend to keep the roads safe.

“We’re going to have a large, high visibility check stop on Friday and possibly Saturday,” he told the Times-Herald. “We will be noticed on the streets of Moose Jaw.”

Local police and RCMP will also be participating in Canadian Road Safety Week, which runs May 16 through 22. National Enforcement Day for impaired driving is also Saturday, putting the focus on drivers who have made the choice to get behind the wheel drunk.

Police in Moose Jaw stopped over 200 vehicles over the course of May long weekend last year, resulting in 16 criminal charges, two license suspensions, and 10 tickets.

“It’s the first long weekend of the summer,” said Pilsworth. “It’s the first opportunity for people know we’re out there, and to recognize the problem with impaired driving – both from alcohol and drugs – that we still do have. It’s better to remind sooner rather than later.”

Officers will be looking for what they call the “big four” offenses: impaired driving, distracted driving, use of proper restraints and seat-belts, and aggressive driving or speeding.

The message is all about being safe in order to make the most of the weekend. While some campgrounds in the province are already all booked up, Cheveldayoff said there are still a few spots available at the parks around Moose Jaw, and encouraged residents to make their reservations to get out and enjoy them.

“Parks are really a jewel of our province,” Cheveldayoff said. “That’s how people treat them, and that’s how we continue to develop and promote them.”