A simple walk in the park a couple months back has been anything but that for a Winnipeg man.
Doug Tervoort is in the long and time-consuming process of fighting a $275 fine after enjoying a City of Winnipeg park after dark earlier this summer. It's a little-known fact city-run parks are closed to the public during the night (10 p.m.-7 a.m.), an obscure ordinance Tervoort came across the hard way.
Let's go back to the night of June 27, when Tervoort decided to stretch his legs in Bonnycastle Park, which is near his downtown residence.
"I was out for a walk in the evening, something that I do pretty regularly, and I walked into the park to look at the river walk to see how far the water was coming (down)," he said Monday. "As I'm walking, I was approached from either side, near the fountain, by two policemen.
"They were literally hiding in the dark. They flashed their flashlights on me, first one then the other, and then they told me I was breaking the law."
Tervoort wasn't sure he heard the policemen correctly. He was just out for a walk in the park, he offered. Lovely night. No big deal. Just taking a stroll.
"They told me, 'Well, that's exactly it -- you're walking in a park after hours,'" Tervoort said.
The 49-year-old was then led by officers over to a sign and police pointed out to him the hours of the park. Tervoort recalls thinking "I didn't know that" and figured he would get a warning and be on his merry way back home.
"They escorted me to their car and wrote up the citation," he said. Tervoort noticed there was no dollar value listed on the ticket and was told he had to go to court to have the fine amount set. The ticket was set at $275.
"I was floored by this. How can a walk in the park possibly cost a person $275?" he said. "I was told that I could pay the fine or try to fight it, guilty with an excuse. Naturally, I went that route."
Tervoort, who admits he was in the park that night, built his case on the strength of the signage at the park -- or the lack thereof. There are only three signs in the park, he said, despite being able to enter the park anywhere along Assiniboine Avenue. (Tervoort adds there are two entrances on Main Street and two entrances along the Assiniboine River river walk that are not signed).
And the one sign he did happen to come across during his fateful walk?
"It was covered by a tree... at the time." Tervoort said the tree branch that was blocking the sign in question has since been pruned back so it's visible for all to see. "I wonder why the city did that," he added.
Monday, the city confirmed parks are off-limits between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m., although many parks (such as Bonnycastle) do not have gates and are still accessible after hours. Public safety is the main reason for the restriction, a city spokesperson said via email Monday, but the nightly closures also help curb after-hours drinking and similar activities.
Tervoort is also trying to use the city's own bylaws in his defence. He quotes Section 10 of the park bylaw, under the Authority to Post Signs heading, which states in part: "A person must observe and comply with the prohibitions, restrictions or rules set out on a sign or notice posted in a park that bears the seal or logo of the City of Winnipeg."
Tervoort believes all the signs at Bonnycastle are invalid because they do not have the city logo, and therefore the hours of operation should not take effect. "Their signs are wrong," he said.
Tervoort argued his case before a judge last Thursday. The only thing settled on during that appearance was another court date next May, nearly one year after he decided to go for a walk.
Did you know Winnipeg parks are closed between 10 p.m. and 7 a.m.? Should the city change that law? Or would it be better to mount a public education campaign about it? Join the conversation in the comments below.