Bears in Bridgeland?

The other day I came across some real weirdness in the Bridgeland-Riverside Community Association’s May newsletter: a warning about bears in Bridgeland. (The PDF is downloadable here .)

Except the warning wasn’t about bears at all but human beings. Bottle pickers specifically. Here’s the first paragraph:

As any person living in Bridgeland is most likely aware our beautiful neighbourhood is often visited by homeless persons panhandlers bottle pickers and vagrants. For the purposes of this article we will refer to those groups referenced above as the bears. Those of you who have read past articles are aware of the fact that the Calgary Police Service (CPS) together with Bylaw Services have stepped up their efforts and their presence in Bridgeland to address the social disorders that this bear population tend to create.

The article goes on to say: "Don’t feed the bears!" echoing the Calgary Downtown Association’s ridiculous anti-panhandling campaigns of years past.

The problem in Bridgeland it seems is that people (like me) leave bottles behind our houses. Then other people — sorry "bears" — come pick them up. Says the article: "Those people who leave bottles out for the bottle pickers or give money to the panhandlers may have good intentions but unfortunately the result of this generosity is that they are giving the bears a good reason to come back and continue feeding in our community."

There is so much that’s wrong with this article that I don’t even know where to start. First of all likening down-and-out human beings to dangerous animals is ludicrous. It’s baseless fearmongering. I have never seen the people who take my bottles and while there’s a lot of talk these days of "vagrants and other undesirables" invading Bridgeland I have yet to see any evidence of it.

Sure I’ve seen some folks pushing shopping carts along First Ave. but they’re usually friendly. Are these the so-called "undesirables?" The ones who when you say "hello" actually look you in the eye and say "hi" back extending a kindness that many other Bridgelanders can’t be bothered with? Terrifying stuff truly. Better put a stop to that real quick.

I don’t like to see crime in my community but I can’t see how bottle picking is a problem. It’s odd how in free-market Calgary people get so offended by someone trying to make an honest buck. These bottle pickers are providing a valuable service. I don’t have time to take away my bottles. These folks do and they get a earn a bit of coin for doing it. It’s a win-win.

So I’m going to keep putting out my empties despite the community association’s stern warning that "this activity is not benefitting the community." I’d rather live in an open welcoming community than a closed priggish one.