Summerside Police Services Sgt. Barry Arsenault and Three Oaks principal Nicole Haire both said Thursday that drug use in the wooded area near the field that caught fire had been a concern last year, an issue, both say, that has since been addressed.
“As far as these sheds and forts and such, they’ve never been in existence to our knowledge,” said Arsenault. “I have been up there several times myself.”
A fire broke out in the field adjacent to Three Oaks’ sports fields near Ottawa Street just as school wrapped up for the day on Monday.
The fire spread east across the field but was knocked down quickly by 35 members of the Summerside Fire Department.
Fire Chief Jim Peters said the source and cause of the fire wasn’t known and likely wouldn’t be determined although, he added, “I have my suspicions.”
An online commenter indicated that “as many parents with children attending TOSH have heard”, there is a “structure/tent” setup in the area “utilized for drug use.”
The issue of the so-called drug shacks had been raised open drug panel hosted by the school last spring by several parents in attendance.
Since, said Haire, the school and police have addressed the issue, although, she was quick to point out there was never a structure in the wooded area.
“Last year we put up our no trespassing signs. The school board gave us direction to do that. We had people patrolling the area. I don’t think it is a problem anymore,” said the principal. “I don’t know where they are going. I know the police have been trying to figure that out. It’s not just our high school kids. There are junior high kids that are into this stuff, too.”
As far as how the fire started, she added that students and others in the community regularly cut through the field to go to Ottawa Street.
“Whether it was a cigarette butt or what, I don’t know,” said Haire. “We put up the trespassing signs. We put a policy in place. We educated the parents and the kids. The traffic isn’t going that way the way it did in previous years.”
Arsenault said police had regularly been patrolling the area and several other areas in the city where young people have been reported to gather and suspected to be using illegal drugs.
He said after daily visits to the suspected area near Three Oaks the problem “soon corrected itself.”
The department’s focus then moved to the dugouts at Queen Elizabeth Park, which is located within feet of Summerside Intermediate School.
“We moved our patrols over there,” said Arsenault. “We don’t think that is an issue in the dugouts anymore.”
The police sergeant noted that SIS does have a policy prohibiting its students from being on the city’s sports fields over their lunch hour.
And, he added, “It’s not uncommon to see kids from outside Summerside there because they know that’s where some of them had been going.”
There have been reports of youth congregating in Heritage Park, some doing drugs.
“You’re allowed in the park. You’re not allowed in the park after 10 o’clock at night. You’re not allowed to partake in any illegal activities there,” said Arsenault. “If we find them and apprehend them we will certainly deal with that.”
The police sergeant said most youngsters found in these areas are not doing anything illegal but some have been caught with drugs.
“Is it a problem? It is a concern and we continue to work with school officials on it.”
Arsenault doesn’t feel there is a huge drug issue in the areas of Three Oaks or SIS.
But, he admitted, “Maybe we’re blind here. Maybe there is a huge issue up there and we are not being made aware of it. When you go in you can kind of tell what kind of paraphernalia is there or not. There’s not an overabundance of that stuff anywhere that we are finding.”
He said the public must proactive in helping curb the problem by reporting any suspected illegal activity by any age group to police.
“We need the community’s help to let us know.”