A city park in Windsor, Ont., is overgrown and there's nothing the city can do about it because the park is now home to an endangered species.
Despite dozens of calls from upset residents who say they can no longer enjoy the green space, Coun. Fred Francis says the city can't cut the grass at Seven Sisters Park because Butler's gartersnakes call the park home.
Being labelled an endangered species in Ontario means the species lives in the wild but is facing imminent extinction or extirpation.
"We have to do what we have to do to follow the law," Francis said. "I think all the residents understand that but the onus is on us now to figure out the solution that makes the residents happy. I work for the residents so I have to find solutions that make them happy and that they agree with."
According to Ontario's Ministry of Natural Resources, the only place in the world where Butler's garter snake is found is in the lower Great Lakes region.
The snake is concentrated in two areas:
- within 10 kilometres of the Detroit River, Lake St. Clair, the St. Clair River, and Lake Huron from Amherst Point to Errol, in Essex and Lambton counties
- Luther Marsh, Dufferin and Wellington counties.
Francis said there are two possible solutions; either move the park or move the snakes. Both will take time.
No one from the City of Windsor was available to answer the question of why the snakes showed up at Seven Sisters Park in the first place.
Some residents want a decision made sooner, rather than later.
Lisa Baggio lives directly behind Seven Sisters Park.
"I want one or the other. Either a fully naturalized space with the jungle gym and the swings gone or I want them to manicure it," Baggio said. "Like they had for close to a decade before this all happened."
It's not the first time the city has had to accommodate the species of snake.
In April 2014, consultants hired by the city found a rare plant species and the Butler's gartersnake living in the area.
The snakes delayed the project for years. It's still not finished.