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Police say noisy drag strip outside Cape Breton arena 'just had to stop'

"No Parking" signs have been posted at the Cape Breton Country Arena in Coxheath, including the parking lot, on utility poles and on the building. The parking ban for when the building is not in use or after hours is to allow Cape Breton Regional Police to police disruptive behaviour taking place in the evenings that in the past has included loitering, drag racing and trucks playing tug-of-war.
"No Parking" signs have been posted at the Cape Breton Country Arena in Coxheath, including the parking lot, on utility poles and on the building. The parking ban for when the building is not in use or after hours is to allow Cape Breton Regional Police to police disruptive behaviour taking place in the evenings that in the past has included loitering, drag racing and trucks playing tug-of-war.

Neighbours complained about cars doing donuts and racing up and down the streets

COXHEATH, N.S. —

 Cape Breton Regional Police are taking serious enforcement measures to combat a situation that has seen a local parking lot turned into a nuisance area, including being used as a drag strip.

Ongoing activity in the parking lot of the Cape Breton County Recreation Centre has resulted in constant complaints to the regional police and Steve Gillespie, Dist. 4 Coun. for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

“There were large gatherings of people with cars and trucks,” Gillespie said. “This has been going on for years.”

Gillespie said kids were using the parking lot as a drag strip with as many as 45 vehicles reported there at one point. Loud music was being blasted and cars were doing donuts and racing up and down the streets. Complaints came from all over, including Keltic Drive and Coxheath Road.

“It was just out of control,” he said. “The activity going on wasn’t reasonable.”

On July 26, police charged two men involved in an apparent tug-of-war between two pickup trucks outside the arena.

Members of the public had complained that two trucks were spotted trying to tow each other in opposite directions.

The driver of a 2013 Dodge Ram was charged with failing to operate a motor vehicle in a careful and prudent manner and failing to comply with a requirement respecting the Motor Vehicle Liability Policy, which carries a fine of $180.

The driver of a 1997 Dodge Dakota was also charged with the above two offences, in addition to operating an unregistered motor vehicle, which carries a fine of $180.

The unregistered vehicle was towed from the scene.

Gillespie said where the arena is CBRM property, vehicles are not allowed there for reasons other than activities going on at the building. They are also not permitted there after hours.

Throughout last summer and again this year, police would remove kids from the lot and an hour later would get more complaints the kids would be back.

Culprits would tear up grass near the area and would leave garbage strewn all over the lot.

“It wasn’t being good for the community, it wasn’t being friendly to neighbours — it just had to stop.”

If the kids had kept the noise down and been vigilant with the garbage, they would have been left alone., he said, adding that many of these people are young guys with souped-up vehicles that they are proud of.

However, he said, these groups would also attract other groups, including some who were just out for mischief.

“You just can’t sit there burning your tires in a parking lot at 11:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night,” he said.”

Praising efforts of the regional police, Gillespie said officers have constantly been in the area to break up crowds and activity.

“They even confiscated a couple of vehicles at one point.”

But without signage for parking restrictions, there was no way for officers to enforce it.

As a result, a meeting was held between CBRM officials and police and a decision was made to impose a parking ban. Signs were posted several weeks ago and a grace period for people to get used to them has now ended, he said.

Gillespie urges police to continue to ticket any vehicles there after 6 p.m.

Desiree Magnus, communications for the CBRPS, confirmed police received noise and mischief complaints, all connected to vehicles in the parking lot outside of regular arena activities and hours.

Magnus said they urge the public to pay attention to the "No Parking" signage now in place, which prohibits any parking unrelated to attending arena events. Police will be monitoring the area.

Under the Motor Vehicle Act, stopping or parking where prohibited by a sign can result in a fine starting at $61.60 for a first offence.

Cape Breton Regional Police Service inspector Stephen MacKinnon said police have confiscated a couple of cars from that area in the past and have stepped up patrols and are handing out tickets.

“Officers have a mandate to check that area in the early evenings and disperse and lay any charges that are appropriate.”

Police spoke to a group of kids who routinely hang around the arena, told them signs were posted and hanging around there is no longer acceptable.

Although they don’t like to go out and persecute youth, MacKinnon said if the kids are not heeding warnings or signage then police has to step up enforcement.

“As recently as (Thursday) there were two tickets issued for parking there after hours,” MacKinnon said.

“We are trying to take that piece away from being a 'hang around' spot for the kids.“

With the ice surface soon coming back to the rink, he said that should alleviate some of the issues taking place there.

“We’ll monitor it for the rest of the summer and into the school year to make sure that the kids don’t use it as a hang around spot.”

Paul MacDonald, facilities manager for the CBRM, also said due to complaints the police were receiving in conjunction with the activity in the parking lot of the Cape Breton County Arena after hours, a decision was made to post signage informing the public the parking lot is off limits when the arena is closed.

“We hoped that would help curtail some of the activity.”

MacDonald said the situation will be revisited in three to four month’s time to see if the signage has helped.

“If it’s the same as it was prior then we might take other steps,” he said. “It’s always a concern when you get complaints of peace being disrupted.”

sharon.montgomery@cbpost.com

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