Who cleans Kin Beach?

Chantelle Deacon

"The problem is, is that people are being irresponsible and tossing their needles," says Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund.

A Vernon woman was punctured with a dirty needle at Kin Beach on Saturday and now the City of Vernon, the Okanagan Indian Band and the Regional District of the Okanagan are coming together to help keep the beach clean.

The Vernon mother of three was planning a beach day with her family but minutes after arriving she felt something sharp jab into her foot.

"My husband and I brought our girls to the beach and we didn't even unpack all of your stuff and I thought I stepped on a pointy stick and I looked back and it was actually a used needle," said Ashley Irving, local Vernon resident.

Irving and her family were near the dog beach area of the beach along Lakeshore Road.

Vernon's Kin beach is partially owned by the OKIB and partially owned by the City of Vernon.

In this incident, Irving stepped on the needle which was on OKIB land.

"The proximity of where that needle was found it could have floated in from anywhere," says Mund. "You can't control what people are going to do just like you can't control people throwing their garbage on the streets. That happens and it will continually happen."

"We've had discussions with Okanagan Indian Band, recently as a matter of fact and we're drafting out an agreement so that we can help mitigate some of those issues."

For Akbal it doesn't matter if the needle was found on City property or OKIB land, he does not want to place blame.

"Where the needle was found to me doesn't matter, it could be found in a park, it could be found anywhere," he says. "We clean up that beach every two weeks. It's a full rake job but that also means you're not going to always get everything."

Needles have been popping up in public places in cities throughout the Okanagan, this issue is not unique to Vernon.

"It's concerning that people do these kinds of things without taking solace in the fact it could harm other individuals," Akbal said while adding that dealing with issues like this take time.

"We have a limited budget to deal with these issues and until we get help from federal and provincial governments we can't put the resources that we need towards preventing this."

OKIB released a press release expressing their concern to Irving, who stepped on the needle.

"The Okanagan Indian Band (OKIB) is deeply concerned to receive news of an incident where a local resident stepped on a discarded needle at Kin Beach / Sandy Beach in Vernon."

"OKIB is currently in discussions with the City of Vernon and Regional District of North Okanagan to implement an Indian Reserve #6 Beach Lands Services Agreement to ensure the entire beachfront adjacent to Kin Beach is maintained to the same standard. While the services agreement will not guarantee that these type of incidents will not occur, it should help reduce the risk."

"More broadly, the OKIB believes that social problems in this region are not isolated to specific locations such as Kin Beach/Sandy Beach in Vernon. These problems are becoming prevalent throughout parks in urban areas in Vernon, the Regional District of North Okanagan and beyond. OKIB believes additional resources and efforts should be provided for this region to help address some of the social problems and the related adverse effects they are having on our communities."

"This is not an OKIB problem, it is all our problem and it is one where children and young adults lives are at stake. We cannot fix this problem in isolation of one another, but we can make a difference by working together to find a solution."

Irving will undergo numerous tests for HIV over the next nine months.

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