By order of her majesty
Northern News Services
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
It started with a letter dated July 9, 2008. Left tucked under the windshield wipers of derelict, abandoned and permanently parked cars at the Government Dock, the letter reads: "At no time has Her Majesty formally, or by her actions, authorized the long-term parking or storing of vehicles on the wharf ... Her Majesty demands that they be removed within 10 days."
Contrary to first impressions, the initiative to rid the wharf of wayward cars was not prompted by the Queen, but by Connie Michael, an officer with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Winnipeg.
Michael said that after numerous visits to the wharf she became "sick and tired" of people abusing federal property.
"People are beginning to think this is their property," she said. "But this is federal land."
"Somebody has literally taken our property and turned it into an abandoned dumping ground for vehicles," she added.
According to Michael and the letter issued, under a city bylaw parking vehicles on private property - in this case federal - without express permission of the owner is unlawful. And although the targeted vehicles have, within the past week or so after receipt of the letter, been removed by the owner or towed, so far the city has not become involved.
"It's not our property; it's federal property," said Doug Gillard, manager of the city's municipal enforcement division. He added that he wasn't aware of the initiative - which is about to get a lot bigger.
The department will soon make it clear that any parking at the wharf - except for on-loading and offloading of boats - will be prohibited. Originally, day parking was to be allowed, said Michael, but the idea was abandoned once DFO realized it would be too hard to police.
John Alexander, for one, is "tickled pink" over the move. Alexander, whose property is sometimes mistaken as being part of the wharf, added that the whole community is "elated” - with the possible exception of houseboaters. He recalled a time in the 1980s where he was one of only two houseboat owners.
"It's a problem that crept up very slowly," he said, referring to the number of houseboat-dwellers that began using the wharf as a parking spot over the years - in addition to the number of cars abandoned at the wharf.
"I know it's a corny thing to say," Alexander admitted, "But my tax dollars administer this bloody dock and I don't feel like it just being a public parking lot."
It's not just about property added Pat Winter, another resident whose home is close to the wharf. "It's supposed to be accessible to the public - to walk down there and have a look around," she said, "You can't do that if it's loaded with junk."
"We don't want to discourage people from using the wharf," Michael stressed. "But we cannot tolerate people just leaving their cars there, thinking it's not costing anybody anything. It's costing us."