Cathy Copeland simply wanted to clean the washrooms in the church before Saturday’s sermon.
She never imagined a small detour would result in being confronted by three Ministry of Natural Resources officials, an OPP officer and a $155 ticket.
Copeland, who turns 70 in June, and her husband Sid, 70, who is disabled, went to St. Gabriel Catholic Church in Rondeau Provincial Park early last Friday evening. The couple were confronted with two deep pools of water where they would normally drive up to the church doors.
“He (Sid) can walk from there up to the church and normally that’s what we would do,” said Copeland. “But we were carrying a vacuum cleaner and mops and buckets and stuff like that so we couldn’t do that.”
Mr. Copeland uses a walker and a cane, he also suffers from Alzheimer disease.
Instead, she took a detour through some tall prairie grass along a pathway parishioners had used for about 50 years before they were asked to stop several years ago.Moments after the couple entered the church, Copeland heard voices outside and went to investigate.
She came face-to-face with two MNR officers.
One officer said Copeland had driven over protected dune and tall grass prairie and a snake habitat.
Explaining her husband’s mobility issues, the impassable water and the history of the pathway, Copeland apologized and said it wouldn’t happen again.
She went to resume her cleaning, but was told the officers weren’t done. She gave them her name and address and an officer made a call on her radio, said Copeland.
“Within minutes, the OPP cruiser arrived here with the lights flashing and Mr. (Richard) Post in his flak jacket got out of the cruiser,” she said.
She reiterated her reasons to Post, the park superintendent, and said, “I’m really sorry it won’t happen again. And he says, ‘Well that’s not good enough’.”
Copeland’s chin begins to tremble and her eyes well up.
“I was really afraid, I really thought I was going to get taken into custody,” she said, her voice breaking. “I’ve heard this happening to other people, but I didn’t realize how traumatic it was for them until now.”