‘It’s out of control’: Westlock County residents concerned over Crown land abuse

Click to play video: 'Westlock County residents concerned over abuse of Crown land' Westlock County residents concerned over abuse of Crown land
WATCH ABOVE: Some residents in Westlock County are fed up. They say the abuse of Crown land in the area is getting out of control and they want something to be done about it. As Nicole Stillger explains, many people are concerned for their safety – Apr 25, 2021

There’s a section of Crown land in Westlock County, Alta., north of Edmonton, that looks like a landfill.

Old appliances, bullet casings, targets and other debris are scattered everywhere.

“It’s out of control,” said John Biro, Westlock County protective services manager.

“A lot of garbage coming in, excessive shooting. They’re using the Crown lands as a gun range.”

According to Biro, the abuse of the Crown land has been an ongoing problem, and people are tired of it.

“The shooting goes on 364 days a year. The only day it didn’t this year was Christmas,” said Westlock County resident Bevin McNelly.

“You can’t even sit outside on a Sunday afternoon with the family and have a meal because all it is is bang, bang, bang.”

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Read more: Fees for recreational Crown land use in Alberta government’s new proposed bill

“We have animals at large here and all the shooting and stuff. It’s not a safe place to be, and then you have the quads and the fires,” said Shane Henry, who lives close by.

That’s another major issue. It’s fire season, and officials are on high alert.

“We lose a lot of sleep,” Biro said. “This area has been proven to be a problem in the past, and it’s been threatening out many residents in the area.

“Even for emergency services, we’ve had numerous fires over the past, and we’ve had to stop operations due to the fact that we’ve got live shooters in the area.”

Residents want to see more enforcement.

Click to play video: 'Alberta government cracks down on bad behavior on public land' Alberta government cracks down on bad behavior on public land
Alberta government cracks down on bad behavior on public land – Aug 3, 2020

The reeve of Westlock County said there needs to be better co-operation with the province.

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“There’s always this who owns the land, who has the rights to the land? When a fire happens, who is going to pay for it? Sometimes there’s back and forth,” Jared Stitsen said.

“We need to get onto the same page of whose responsibility it is to patrol it. There’s a lot of funds being spent to be out here to watch over the area. I think the provincial government has to do their part on that as well.”

Area residents also want accountability for the damage and to feel safe in their backyard.

“What I would like to see is the shooting completely shut down. Somebody is going to get killed out here,” McNelly said.

Officials want people to respect the Crown land.

“It’s not a rifle range. It’s not a place where you can bring your household garbage and just leave it for somebody else to pick up,” Biro said.

Global News has reached out to the Ministry of Environment and Parks but has not yet heard back in time before publication.

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