Parks and recreation staff in North Cowichan have had their work cut out for them this year as they try to maintain the municipality’s many parks and open spaces.
Don Stewart, North Cowichan’s director of parks and recreation, said eight full-time summer students who were to help staff with their many responsibilities in the community for four months this summer were not hired due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That means the regular maintenance and upkeep in parks, trails and other areas the municipality is responsible for have seen delays, including yard work in Pioneer Cemetery, which is among the oldest cemeteries in the Cowichan Valley and located off Herd Road.
“COVID-19 has caused us to have to take a look at how we maintain our parks and open spaces,” Stewart said.
“We’ve had to prioritize our work and catch up whenever possible this year. Pioneer Cemetery did get left behind and we apologize to the community for that. But the weeding and mowing there has now been completed and we’ll check back in two weeks to see the level of growth that has taken place in that time. The cemetery is not irrigated, however, so the grass and weeds usually start dying back at this time of the year.”
Last week, a long-time neighbour of Pioneer Cemetery, which is restricted to families who were living in the Cowichan Valley prior to 1900 and their direct blood descendants, complained the small cemetery was covered with grass and weeds three-feet high that was blanketing the grounds and the individual plots.
The next day, a work crew from North Cowichan was on scene weeding and cutting the grass.
Stewart said the municipality is doing its best to keep its busier parks and green spaces up to normal maintenance standards with the staff available, but other areas not considered as high a priority are not getting the amount of attention they would in a regular year.
“Some areas where we used to maintain once or twice a week are now getting maintained just once every couple of weeks,” he said.
“Some trail clearing and fencing projects, as well as some upgrading, that were planned for this year have had to be delayed as well. It’s been an unusual year for us because of the pandemic.”