Edmonton

Mowing pains: City ramps up turf control as complaints spike

The city will tackle sports fields, parks and trails with more vigor next week after a spike in complaints about neglected turf and weeds in Edmonton. 

Complaints to 311 about turf and weeds up 140 per cent from last year

Jeremy Wright, a father of five, took his mower out to tackle the tall grass in Beverly Heights. (Submitted by Cori Lee)

The city will tackle the turf on sports fields, parks and trails with more vigour next week after a spike in complaints about overgrown turf and weeds in Edmonton. 

City operations scaled back its mowing schedule this spring as part of COVID-19 budget restrictions. 

Complaints to 311 are up 140 per cent from last year. 

Gord Cebryk, deputy manager of operations, said starting in July, crews will mow regular sports fields and district parks every 14 days instead of on the 21-day schedule it had adopted as a cost-saving measure. 

"We have heard the frustration from the public about turf maintenance," Cebryk said at a news conference Wednesday. 

The city had been focusing on high-profile and high-use areas, leaving regular sports fields and parks to grow over. 

That prompted some people to take their own mowers to clear fields for kids to play on. 

With a revised mowing schedule, Cebryk is asking residents to refrain from mowing fields themselves. 

"We appreciate the community spirit some Edmontonians have shown," Cebryk said. "However, I would like to reiterate that we do not encourage Edmontonians to mow grass in city parks."

His crews are trained to safely cut a variety of turf types, he noted.  

Some locations weren't going to be mowed at all this year, such as neighbourhood walkways, pocket parks and utility corridors. Those will now be done over the season. 

"It will take some time for our crews to catch up on deferred maintenance," Cebryk said.

To ramp up the mowing schedule, the city is hiring back 100 seasonal workers it didn't plan on employing at the beginning of the spring. 

The city has laid off nearly 3,000 people since March, mainly in recreation centres, libraries and transit. Administration tried to reassign as many staff as possible to areas needing attention, such as sanitizing transit and the shelter at the Expo Centre. 

But it didn't deploy as many as it could.

"We're not spending what we had anticipated," Cebryk said. "We're able to recall staff and stay within the existing budget." 

Cebryk said he plans to discuss the results of the increased mowing schedule with council on July 6.

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