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Cash or grass... nobody plays for free

When I returned from two weeks vacation in May I had a message waiting for me on my office phone that said, Welcome back, we missed you and could you please find out why the grass at Jericho Park isnt being cut.

When I returned from two weeks vacation in May I had a message waiting for me on my office phone that said, Welcome back, we missed you and could you please find out why the grass at Jericho Park isnt being cut.

I didnt have time to look into it at the time, but anecdotally knew exactly what this reader was talking about because Ive also noticed long grass in a lot of parks and boulevards. That was one of the reasons I didnt laugh at the wheat field project, which recently received a $5,000 grant from the city, because some green spaces in my neighbourhood already boast swaying patches of knee-length grass.

Last week I wrote about a group of coaches and players from the Special Olympics upset they couldnt play SNAG (Starting New at Golf) at Trout Lake Park because the grass was so long, despite the fact they had booked one of the playing fields there every Monday night for almost two months. The park board told me the long grass was an oversight, possibly caused by the wet weather the city has experienced. But then I heard from another group that tried to host a softball tournament at both Trout Lake and neighbouring Clark parks several weeks ago. According to this group, the grass was so long at Clark Park the organizers brought out their own lawn mowers so they could play.

I also received a photograph on Monday from readers disgusted by the amount of garbage piled up at New Brighton Park. It was obvious refuse left over from the weekend.

NPA park board commissioner Ian Robertson lays the blame for the sorry state of these parks squarely on the Vision Vancouver-dominated city council and park board commissioners, who he says care more about bike lanes and garden plots than recreational green space. Robertson said what I suspected, that the long grass is due to budget cuts to maintenance and the piles of trash are the result of the city taking over garbage duty from the park board to save money.

Robertson says that neglect is beginning to show and Vision Vancouver should be ashamed of itself for allowing the citys much loved parks to fall into such disarray, particularly at the height of tourist season.

But Vision Vancouver park board chair Aaron Jasper played down the cuts to maintenance, explaining only 14 per cent of the citys passive park space is being left to grow at a savings of $150,000 annually. He also insists high profile tourist destinations like Queen Elizabeth and Stanley parks are being well maintained. He blames bad weather for a delay in maintenance in some parks, but insists playing areas for sports are cut regularly. He suggests the only option for the city would be to raise taxes because there is not enough money to maintain all of the parks all of the time.

And to that I say, raise em if it means small neighbourhood parks will receive the attention they deserve. Or heres an idea. Maybe the city could take advantage of this long grass to make a few bucks. What about creating a maze in the shape of the Canucks symbol at one of our larger parksmaybe Trout Lake or Jerichoand charge $5 a head. The kids would love it so long as they remembered to watch out for the dog poop.

A bonus of this long grass is that the pretentious, cigar-smoking, hipster bocce ball players who show up in various parks across the city as soon as the sun comes out will have fewer places to play. Chafer beetle damage will be less of a problem on the citys boulevards because crows, raccoons and skunks wont have easy access to the soil, so its not all bad. Another bright spot? Vancouvers reputation as one of the grass capitals of the world could eventually take on a whole new and legal meaning.

sthomas@vancourier.com

Twitter @sthomas10