Heat, COVID-19 to blame for withered greenery at LRT stop, city says
Landscapers tore out recently planted gardens at Lees station
Drought-like conditions and the COVID-19 pandemic are being blamed for the demise of much of the greenery surrounding at least one LRT station along Ottawa's recently completed Confederation Line, forcing OC Transpo to replant.
Jeff Cosman complained to the city after noticing wilted plants, noxious weeds and trash piling up around Lees station. Cosman lives nearby and cycles past the LRT stop almost daily. He's also a gardener.
"It was completely overgrown with weeds," Cosman said. "I could see some really bad weeds in there. There was wild parsnip and a lot of sow thistle."
The sap of wild parsnip can burn skin and even blind people.
Cosman said he called OC Transpo and the city multiple times since the beginning of June, trying to find out who was responsible for the station's landscaping. He said it wasn't until he emailed Coun. Allan Hubley, chair of the city's transit commission, earlier this month that he finally got some action.
Crews started tearing the gardens out on Monday.
Landscapers could be seen digging out not only weeds, but also full-size bushes and other plants, dumping the debris into a trailer.
"I look at all the waste," Cosman said. "Somebody paid for these gardens."
Cosman isn't alone in worrying about the waste.
"Landscaping isn't necessarily highest on the list of priorities, but that doesn't mean that it's unimportant," said Sarah Wright-Gilbert, a citizen transit commissioner.
"It's wasted money. You know, plants cost money ... as does the time paying for people to deal with the plants, to rip them out of the ground and put new ones in, all that costs money."
After all the problems the Confederation Line has experienced, Wright-Gilbert fears this is yet another failure.
"It makes our railway stations or LRT stations look unkempt. It makes them look ... cheap and untended to, and really it can lead people to think, well, they're not even keeping the plants alive, what else are they not looking after?"
Heat, COVID-19 to blame, city says
Rideau Transit Maintenance is responsible for some landscaping maintenance along the Confederation Line, but OC Transpo is responsible for most of the plant upkeep including weed control and tree and shrub maintenance, according to a statement from the City of Ottawa.
That's supposed to be done regularly — inspections once a week and landscaping every three weeks — "however, due to current circumstances including COVID-19 and the extreme heat over the recent weeks, landscaping activities have been delayed," the city said.
"Given the recent conditions of extreme heat, landscaping activities have been a challenge. OC Transpo staff have been working with our contractors in recent weeks to progress landscaping work around the stations and this work is anticipated to be completed by the end of the month," the statement reads.