Clean up of Pemberton's 'jungle' at forefront of everyone's thoughts 

But problems won’t disappear when site is gone

Only minutes from the heart of Pemberton lies a complex set of trails and small clearings that locals unaffectionately call the "the jungle." This long-ignored area, which has had a reputation as a drinking spot and a trouble spot for over a decade, has now been thrust into the local spotlight after a 15-year-old Mount Currie youth was found brutally beaten to death on May 2.

This murder has led some local residents to question both the safety and location of "the jungle."

"As the father of two small children that go to the elementary school, which is only about 100 metres from the murder site, I’m extremely concerned about the safety of that area," said local ambulance service worker Jordan Sturdy. "You have to worry about an area that is nicknamed ‘the jungle.’"

Hidden from sight by tall fir, cedar and cottonwood trees and a thick underbrush, this area has been long known as a site for drinking, drug abuse and late-night parties. Once teeming with pinecones and small flowers, the area’s moss-covered floor is now cut by numerous well-worn trails that are littered with thousands of shards of green, white and brown glass. Hundreds of beer bottles, empty beer cases, discarded cigarette packages, rusting cans, old clothes, empty shopping bags and other garbage can be found.

In fact, many Pemberton residents have no idea that just metres into the forest there are dozens of littered drinking areas with numerous makeshift log chairs and campfire remains – remnants of late night drinking binges.

Most residents also don’t know that the trails of the jungle slowly snake through the forested area on the outskirts of town for over a kilometre – stretching from One-Mile Lake, to the forested area beside the elementary school, across the train tracks behind Pioneer Park and up past the RCMP and village council offices near Pemberton’s downtown core.

Pemberton school bus driver Trish Sturdy questions the logic in allowing such an area to develop near the Signal Hill elementary school.

"I don’t know why the community would tolerate a place like that so close to the elementary school," said Sturdy. "It’s kind of frightening, especially since a murder has now taken place there."

It was within sight of that elementary school that Robert Joshua (Ross) Leo was brutally beaten to death.

Today a small cross, marked with his initials RJRL, which is surrounded by small bouquets of flowers and bright ribbon, indicate the spot where Leo spent his last minutes alive. His small memorial brightens up this heavily wooded area where broken glass, plastic six-pack rings, bottle caps, crushed beer cans, broken whiskey bottles and faded potato-chip containers are more plentiful than pinecones. A fire pit, broken shopping cart, cleaning solvent and two old mattresses also lay only metres from where his body was found.

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