Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Boozy river rowdies leave locals resentful

Rafters, tubers spur weekend woes

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Matthew Sauerborn, Jena Jakubowski and Kaitlyn Pierreroy float down the Little Saskatchewan River on Sunday. They plan to carry out any garbage they may have but less responsible rafters annoy local residents.

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Matthew Sauerborn, Jena Jakubowski and Kaitlyn Pierreroy float down the Little Saskatchewan River on Sunday. They plan to carry out any garbage they may have but less responsible rafters annoy local residents.

BRANDON -- The issue of rowdy drinking rafters and tubers on the Little Saskatchewan River west of Brandon just won't drift away.

On any given sunny weekend, between 15 to 20 cars can be seen parked at a river crossing just off Grand Valley Road in the RM of Whitehead, indicating just how popular it is to lazily float down the river.

"I'm not condemning the tubers," said an RM of Whitehead resident who wished to remain anonymous for fear of being targeted.

"The majority of them are great, but it's the hardcore, the ones that are here to get pissed. They got a tube with their coolers and away they go."

The resident has seen many people stop, urinate on his property adjacent to the river, leave garbage along the banks and in some instances even stolen yard furniture.

When the Whitehead resident has confronted problem rafters, he said some simply respond with drunken profanity.

"It just never stops," he said. "Every weekend, there's something. Without fail... no brains, no respect."

"All I want is for them to respect my property."

The municipality is also dealing with the trash left by the tubers, including wrecked tubes, beer bottles, cans and boxes.

Last year, in response to the issue, the municipality put garbage bins at a bridge where most people finish their rafting run. "I don't know why the municipality would do that," the resident said. "That just condones everything as far as I'm concerned."

RM Councillor Gord Hansen defended Whitehead's decision and said in years past, most of the garbage ended up on nearby farm fields. "It's a tough call, and the reason we put them there is because a landowner said they were throwing garbage in his crop and he demanded garbage barrels," he said.

Last year, Hansen said the municipality hauled out as many as 30 deflated tubes laying around the bridge and on the grass. "The tubes just get wrecked when they're coming down and they just leave it there."

Hansen said it's an ongoing issue for the RM of Whitehead and he also brought up the issue of safety around floating down the river, since the Little Saskatchewan feeds into the larger and faster Assiniboine River.

"We've had to rescue the odd one," he said. "We've had to save a couple of guys that got stranded in the water -- it's a dangerous sport."

On a nice day, parked cars block the road at the river crossing, irritating farmers who try to pass with large equipment and Hansen said council has discussed putting up no-parking signs so its bylaw officer can issue tickets.

But there's only so much the RM can do -- it doesn't own the water. "You can't legally stop them from coming down the river, but you can legally control how they disperse off the river," Hansen said, and adding tubers are trespassing on private property when they get into the river at Kirkham's Bridge.

People who drink while rafting down the river are breaking the law, said Cpl. Jarrid St. Pierre of the Blue Hills RCMP detachment. "There are laws that permit that from happening," he said. "So it is illegal to have liquor on the tube on the Saskatchewan River."

 

-- Brandon Sun

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 12, 2013 A6

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