After three decades in parks and recreation, the city’s acting CAO, Byron McCorkell, said he has never seen a situation like the one recently at McDonald Park, when a baby came into contact with suspected fentanyl.
Earlier this month, Kamloops RCMP issued a warning after an 11-month-old child found a small plastic baggie containing a purple substance — suspected to be the illicit drug responsible for a health crisis in British Columbia — while playing in the city park on King Street in North Kamloops.
“Over the years, lots of paraphernalia, lots of things I’ve found extremely disturbing, razor blades to dismantling of equipment,” McCorkell said. “Things happen in public places. I spoke to the mother involved here, expressed to her our sincere apologies for what she experienced, but at the same token, she and I both agreed that it’s a partnership to be safe in a public location.”
With limited city resources, McCorkell said parents must be vigilant in public spaces. He said proper disposal of discarded sharps is already part of daily park maintenance, noting staff have been advised to give an extra sweep of playgrounds.
However, he noted limited resources and challenges with extra cleaning during the COVID-19 pandemic. McCorkell explained a four-person crew cleans the city’s public washrooms seven days a week, with the goal of attending each one twice per day. That crew also looks after 300 garbage bins.
“It’s a fairly significant work load and it’s one where they’re basically having to move quickly,” McCorkell said. “They don’t spend an hour in the park. It’s usually 15 minutes or a half hour, depending on what they find in the washroom.”
McCorkell said bathrooms and garbages are prioritized, with a quick sweep and obvious litter or issues addressed. He stressed that the city has 40-something playgrounds in the community and about 800 hectares of park space — the most park space per capita of any other community in B.C.
McCorkell advised parents to take a look around playgrounds and search for broken glass, drug paraphernalia and other items that may be hazardous. He said parks are closed at 11 p.m., but noted bylaws officers do not monitor them into the night, meaning people still access the space after hours.
McCorkell also advised parents to call the appropriate department — parks, bylaws or RCMP — if something isn’t right. McCorkell noted the mother at McDonald Park called the RCMP and the suspected drugs were taken away. In addition, he noted training available to dispose of discarded sharps and 60-plus available disposal bins.
“Thankfully, we can talk about it from the perspective that we can learn from it,” he said.
RCMP Staff Sgt. Simon Pillay told KTW the substance will not be submitted for testing” because there is no viable investigation remaining.”
However, he added, police are confident the substance inside the package is, indeed, fentanyl, noting court-acknowledged experts examined the package.