Alberta teens face $1,800 in fines for using unmarked crossing at railway tracks

CALGARY — In two separate incidents Thursday, three Airdrie teens were each slapped with a $600 trespass ticket after using a popular shortcut crossing CP Rail tracks.

Halle Vallance, 15, was coming home from the mall when she was stopped by a CP Rail police officer in an unmarked vehicle and given the ticket.

“So many people cross it that I just didn’t think like it was a problem,” Vallance says. “And the gate was open. Like, if it was closed I wouldn’t have crossed.”

A gate in the long fence behind the Airdrie Walmart and London Drugs leads to a short, well-defined path that crosses the double railway tracks.

The shortcut saves nearly two kilometres of walking around the active rail line.

On the west side of the tracks, closest to the residential area, there is a sign next to the wide-open gate, but it wears a heavy coat of black spray paint that appears weathered.

“For nine years we’ve lived here that (gate) has almost always been open,” says Abigail Cornyn, 14.

On Friday people of all ages, including two with a dog, could be seen using the crossing.

Abigail and her sister Madeline Cornyn were on their way to buy school supplies when an officer called them over to the unmarked cruiser.

“So we both gave him our drivers license, and then he said ‘is this your first time being arrested?'” 16 year old Madeline says, adding they were afraid they would be taken to jail.

Instead they were given tickets. It was only later they realized how much they were for.

$600 TICKETS

CP Rail confirmed in a statement Friday that the girls were ticketed, also adding an additional 63-year-old was hit with a $600 ticket. The statement went on to say that trespassing on CP Rail property is both dangerous and illegal.

But the Cornyn girls’ father, who works in occupational safety, says that the approach is all wrong.

“It’s clear this is an established pathway with no signage that this is against the law and no gate in place,” Bruce Cornyn says.

Halle’s mother says while she expects her daughter will walk around in future, she was upset with what she sees as a heavy-handed approach.

“Six hundred dollars? That does not fit the crime at all,” says Shelley Vallance, who says she went to speak to the officer a short time after the ticket was written.

“When I told him that he should have educated the kids, he said, ‘I can arrest her and charge her right now.'”

The parents say they plan to be in court to challenge the tickets.

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