Capital Regional District parks maintenance staff have been starting their day with extra clean-up duties, as large amounts of garbage have been piling up around the Centennial Park trash cans in the morning.
Staff have also seen an increase of damage and vandalism to the Centennial Park washroom, which has led them to close the facility overnight and through days of inclement weather.
“What we’ve noticed is the vandalism and the graffiti seems to be happening when our regular park users aren’t in the park, so there are no eyes in the park,” said CRD parks and recreation manager Dan Ovington.
The rise in vandalism has resulted in CRD staff closing the washroom at around 3 or 4 p.m. and to also keep the washroom building closed during periods of inclement weather. The new building was opened last April.
“On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays [the washroom is] open because those days school is out and people are using the park,” said parks maintenance supervisor Kirk Harris. “We’re providing the service to people who are actually using the park.”
Harris described the damage to the park: “There are excessive amounts of garbage. When we go there in the morning, there’ll be two or three full green garbage bags full of trash. There’ll be piles of clothing, old wet dog blankets . . . All the downspouts around the new washroom have all been crushed in. You go there in the morning, you can see where they’ve been urinating all over the place.”
Garbage is a major hindrance to park operations. Typically parks staff spend an extra half hour every day to clean excess trash, and the bill for disposing of the waste ends up going to the taxpayers. During the busy season, the CRD’s garbage bill for parks is anywhere between $350 and $450 per week.
Harris explained that staff believes much of the washroom damage has come from people living in vans near the park, and that as they tend to congregate in the park, more and more people are attracted to the area.
“Living downtown basically started around November. A number of those vehicles really haven’t moved since that time. They’re parked in front of the park and in front of the two banks. The other morning, there were eight of what I call ‘terrestrial liveaboards,’” Harris said.
The CRD has contacted both the Ministry of Transportation and Infrastructure, which has jurisdiction over Fulford-Ganges Road in front of the park, and the RCMP, to try and work out a solution.