City has never budgeted for trail maintenance

Willow Point residents in the College Drive subdivision got an early Christmas present during last week’s city financial planning.

Come spring and summer, they will no longer need to shoulder the burden of taking care of a popular walkway that residents say has been neglected by the city.

In October, four property owners wrote a letter to the city informing council that they have been – at their own time and expense – mowing the overgrown grass along the Timberline/Holm walkway for at least 10 years.

At last week’s financial planning sessions, council took the letter to heart and took action to remedy the situation, adding $11,000 to the 2017 budget for trail and walkway maintenance.

“We haven’t had a budget and that amazes me,” said Coun. Charlie Cornfield.

What made it all the more surprising for council was the revelation that there has been no money budgeted for trail maintenance at all.

Anywhere in the city.

“We do provide maintenance on trails, do we not?” Mayor Andy Adams asked city staff.

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said the city has been lacking in that area in recent years.

“We do not have a budget for trail maintenance – at all,” Milnthorp said. “We try to get to the most serious hazard areas but it’s been very hit and miss and when we do, it takes away from other areas of the budget.”

According to a city staff report, an inspection this year of the city’s trails and walkways identified 15 safety hazards and if trails are not properly maintained, the city may have a liability risk on its hands if an injury were to occur.

Cornfield said that was not acceptable.

“Forty-six kilometres (of community trails) – our community surveys have shown that is one of the most popular and supported activities that we have in our city and if we’re going to direct (people) to use the trails, then they should be in a proper maintained condition and they should be safe for people,” Cornfield said.

Coun. Larry Samson echoed that. He said that popular trails like the Sea Walk desperately need attention, noting that the blackberry bushes are taking over and restricting access to the beach in some areas.

At Dick Murphy Park on Tyee Spit, Samson said weeds and grass are growing in the cracks between the curb and the sidewalk, which in the long run harms city infrastructure.

Cornfield said it’s incumbent upon council to address those issues.

“This harkens back to my previous life in the ministry of forests,” he said. “Maintenance – it’s a minor amount but something that’s desperately needed.”