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Saskatoon homeowners want city to address crime-stricken problem pathways

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WATCH ABOVE: Homeowners frustrated with problem pathways – Oct 25, 2019

Tyler Friesen could put up with the graffiti on his fence, but a recent fire at his Saskatoon home was too much to take.

He suspects a narrow walkway next to his Silverwood house allowed an arsonist to get to or from his recycling bin. The blaze on Sept. 9, spread from the bin, damaged his neighbour’s home and left him in fear.

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“When it gets to the point of now my family’s lives are in danger, as well as my neighbours’, that’s a big stress in a guy’s life,” Friesen told Global News.

He’s also had his garage broken into and his truck stolen from the driveway.

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Friesen’s fence along the path and his neighbour’s adjacent fence are tarnished with countless examples of graffiti. There’s often broken glass and trash strewn about.

Eight years ago, Grant Myhre spent $6,500 to build a new fence, only to see it defaced by vandals. At all hours of the day, he’s seen people drinking, using drugs and urinating in the path.

“It’s a great area, but when you have to deal with this, it’s very frustrating,” said Myhre, who has lived at the home for over 21 years.

Fences belonging to Tyler Friesen and Grant Myhre are continually hit with graffiti.
Fences belonging to Tyler Friesen and Grant Myhre are continually hit with graffiti. Grant Myhre / Supplied

The pathway between Verbeke Court and WJL Harvey Park is one of about a dozen problem pathways Ward 5 Coun. Randy Donauer has seen in the north-end neighbourhoods of Silverwood and Lawson Heights.

“We’ve abandoned these landowners,” Donauer said. “This is a city amenity. Our amenity is causing daily problems for the people in the neighbourhood.”

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Because of the crime they attract, Donauer said newer neighbourhood don’t have narrow pathways between fenced-in yards.

Friesen and Myhre want to block the pathway off – something permitted by a rarely enacted policy in Saskatoon. It requires police support, a community meeting, and each owner must pay a $2,000 application fee, plus another $2,000 for the owner acquiring the land.

Applications aren’t always successful.

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Donauer considers the closure process too restrictive, saying the policy makes it “almost impossible to get a walkway closed.”

He acknowledged other families in the neighbourhood like the paths because children can get to a park or school. The community meeting process “pits a couple of neighbours against the neighbourhood,” he said.

At Monday’s city council meeting, Donauer plans to issue a motion for the city take more ownership of the walkways by taking care of maintenance, graffiti and other crime issues.

“We need to find a community solution. It’s a community problem.”

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