Resort limits beach access

Increased crime cited in move by Big Fish Bay

Leader staff

Big Fish Bay Resort took the unprecedented step on May 18 of shutting off uncontrolled access to the beach to people who aren’t paying guests. – or at least saying it was doing that.

Citing increased crime and the costs associated with dealing with that, the resort said only paying customers would be allowed in. Guests too, but they have to check in first.

This is a departure from the terms of the lease agreement with the Town of Slave Lake. Operators of the campground have always been obligated to provide public access to the beach. But according to Big Fish Bay manager Edie Klassen, this is not sustainable any more, given the way things have been going.

“We have been struggling with the public going through our customer sites and continued theft from the customers,” Klassen told The Leader in an email response. “We were working on a plan with the town regarding public access, but due to the crime being at an all-time high we are assessing the situation and trying to come up with a plan that works for everyone.”

What works for the resort for now is the following, as posted by Big Fish Bay on social media:

“In effect immediately, Big Fish Bay will no longer be allowing traffic in unless you are a customer that has paid for a site. If you are visiting a site, we will ask you for your driver’s license, cell number and a license plate number at the office.”

Impressions of the amount of crime going on differ, depending who you ask. RCMP Staff Sgt. Casey Bruyns tells The Leader the detachment received two calls about criminal activity since April 1 of this year (as of May 21). Neither of them, he specifies, involved homeless people. Besides those two calls, there were four about “suspicious persons.” One of those, it appears, “perhaps involved a homeless person.”

According to Klassen complaints to the RCMP have been “too many times to count.” All they know for sure, she adds, “is that no charges were laid, or arrests made.”

Big Fish Bay’s view on the connection between increased criminal activity on its site and the nearby location of the homeless shelter is also quite different than what the RCMP (or the town) says.

The town’s recent decision to close the shelter for the summer months Klassen calls “a baby step in the right direction.” Klassen is on the record as opposing the location altogether, on behalf of her employer.

“We spoke loud and clear regarding the amount of crime that had come with the temporary homeless shelter being here and warned the council what the permanent shelter would bring. It’s very disappointing that no backup plan was made when they made this decision.”

Town CAO Jeff Simpson got back to The Leader, saying the town is aware of the announcement, and will be working with the resort’s management team “to ensure they are able to balance their public safety/crime concerns with their respective obligations under their lease agreement with the town.”

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