Dear Editor,

Having grown up in Meaford in the 60's and 70's, we returned to a fixer-upper on Bayfield Street 15 years ago to be among old friends, and are re-building the house to be here permanently. We are between the children's playground and beach at Raper's Park and the children's area of McCarroll Park and the boat ramp beach across the road. This location is a great attraction for our children and grandchildren, and our large extended family who like to join us here for holidays.  The waterfront park is a draw for tourists and for young families considering Meaford as a place to live. 

We are spending a lot of our savings on our house, with more than 95% of the expenditure on labour and supplies sourced within a 30-minute drive from town. Our neighbours are also fixing up their houses. These expenditures increase the attraction of Meaford, but the activities on Municipal property across the street do not.

As we all know, we have one of the finest waterfronts in all of Ontario, and for us it was like that for the first 13 years. In that time we had only one very bad day of obnoxious behaviour by two men in the park but it was only one day and they didn't come back. The last two years have seen much, much worse for 200 days each year or more. Much, much worse. 

A core group of men, some fishing, with one ringleader, gather or camp out almost daily from 5 a.m. and on to darkness to whoop it up -- just 50 feet away. It is urinating (cannon, grass, trees, garbage cans, our neighbour's front lawn in front of him and his young daughter), fish cleaning on picnic tables, constant noise, loud swearing, fish guts on the rocks, offensive ethnic jokes, menacing behaviour, and even a few catcalls toward us across the street. We've seen young families and tourists turn back or cross the street to avoid them, more vehicular traffic and illegal parking, and transactions with vehicles that swoop into the no-parking zone. We are quite sickened by this boorish behaviour of a few -- it's not the Meaford waterfront of even a couple of years ago. These are not normal fishermen.

Discussions about early morning noise by our neighbour ended with a shouting, nasty response of "We are locals and if you don't like it you can move away ...", "It's public property and we can do what we want ...". Last spring when someone moved one of 'their' picnic tables, a young man with a mullet was sent over to confront me in a menacing way, and not knowing what it was about, I just wove my car around the 5 illegally parked cars and left. The intimidation has since gotten worse.

Over the past month as more of their picnic tables were removed by the Municipality, the stares as we came and went changed to intimidation and menacing looks, ending in verbal abuse by the ringleader "You better get used to looking at me ... I'm not leaving ...", and "You're dealing with the wrong people ...". I started to video him hoping he would repeat this threat, and he immediately sent his buddy running across the street to set me right. I stood my ground and then called the police for the first time in my life.

In talking with bonafide fishermen who are there to enjoy fishing, they don't want to lose that enjoyment. They also know that we have not complained about fishermen or the fishing; why would we. They also see that we have the right not be threatened by this gang, and to enjoy our home and parkland as much as the next person. I think that now is the time for honest fishermen to help prohibit behaviour they would not tolerate near their families. It is in their interest to preserve harbour-front fishing, and also to preserve the natural beauty of our area that has made it special and unique ever since the first fishermen toiled our waters many, many decades ago.

Thanks for the opportunity,

Craig & Robin Jowett, Meaford

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