Where have all the flowers gone?

The city is at a loss to explain how vegetation planted during the Highway 19A upgrade is already dead

The city is at a loss to explain how vegetation planted during the Highway 19A upgrade is already dead.

A 200-foot long stretch of landscaping along the Old Island Highway near the Simms Creek Lift Station and Forberg Road has withered away “for completely unknown reasons,” said councillor Larry Samson.

“It’s in very sad shape,” he said. “I went down and looked at it and it’s an eyesore. We have one of the most beautiful stretches along the ocean there and we have this vegetation…that’s completely died away.”

The landscaping is part of the city’s $13.5 million Highway 19A upgrade project from Hilchey to Rockland road aimed at enhancing the area and creating an atmosphere similar to Willow Point. The project began in 2009 and wrapped up in May of last year.

Ross Milnthorp, the city’s general manager of parks, recreation and culture, said the plants survived the warranty period and he can’t understand what happened between then and now.

“The flower bed in question and the landscaping along Highway 19A went through the normal warranty period and, following the completion of construction and at the end of the warranty period, was inspected by the contracted administrator for landscaping and the engineering consultant,” he said. “At that time, in their opinion, the vegetation in that flower bed was healthy, alive and doing well. What happened after that – I wish I knew.”

The plants were inspected at a nursery and analyzed for traces of poison or other foreign substances, but nothing was confirmed. Coun. Samson said the landscaping contractor should be held to some degree of accountability and tabled a motion directing city staff to discuss replacing the vegetation, with all costs to come before council at next Tuesday’s meeting. Council unanimously supported the motion.

“Even though the so-called warranty expired February 2012 I believe there’s an onus on the contractor to have a look at this and see what can be done and what they can do to help the city out with this,” Samson said. “I believe it’s in such a condition now that we can’t leave it all summer and wait until 2013 budget negotiations (to replace the flowers).”

Milnthorp confirmed under normal circumstances city staff would wait until 2013 to put in a budget request for the replacement of the vegetation in the area.

He said staff will be looking at alternatives.

“We would recommend putting something back into that location that (requires) far less maintenance and a combination of turf and significantly reduced flower beds or just turf,” Milnthorp said.

Samson agreed the vegetation that was planted may not have been ideal and a scaled-back, more maintenance-free version may be more appropriate.