The reeds have got to go and the ramps are taken care of


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It was a week of R and R over in the Lake Margaret area of town – as in reeds and ramps.
Seems things can move pretty quickly when dealing with the residents who live on the shore of the newest Great Lake.
Council wasted no time Monday in directing city staff to prepare a report on how to deal with invasive weeds – Phragmites australis – a perennial grass which is burgeoning out of control around Lake Margaret faster than senators’ expenses.
Parks and rec director Ross Tucker advised council he had met with Janice Gilbert – a wetlands ecologist who has been tagged Ontario’s leading authority on Phragmites australis – and a management plan will be in the works.
Tucker cautioned it could take three years or longer to win the war on weeds. What he didn’t touch on was the cost of doing battle with the fast-spreading foe.
But hold on a sec. Isn’t Lake Margaret the domain of Doug Tarry Custom Homes? Should the city be committing untold funds to deal with this pesky situation?

Tucker obviously realized this conundrum Monday when he pointed out the reeds can be found on city property elsewhere.
So why only now is the city springing into action?
Was it the pressure of a petition from Lake Margaret residents which read in part: “If the weeds take over, it would have a detrimental effect on property values around Lake Margaret, in which case we will expect some relief on our rather high property taxes.”
Talk like that sure isn’t sitting well with residents elsewhere in the city.
Reader Brianna writes on Facebook: “Here’s a tip, grab a weedeater Lake Margaret folks and get to work! There are a million things that the city of St. Thomas crew are responsible for, including your pot holes, trees down, signs missing, etc.”
John Mahon adds, “Maybe this issue wouldn’t have been an issue at all . . . had they not ruined that entire lake/ecosystem with the development of houses in the first place.”
Then there’s Scott Northcott who points out, “So we the taxpayers of St. Thomas are on the hook so some rich people on Lake Margaret can have a view of an old gravel pit. I really question this.”
Oh my, who knew weeds could be so divisive, although it does remind us of the definition: A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for learning how to grow in rows.
As for the ramps, Tucker was sure quick to dispose of a make-shift BMX course some enterprising young people have crafted over the past five years.
The action released a firestorm of criticism on the T-J web page and on Facebook, much of which we can’t print due to colourful language.
But it all comes down to timing. The kids have been toiling on and enjoying the course for years and Tucker has to destroy it with just days remaining in the summer break? Surely this could have waited until the return to school.
Better yet, what about consultation with all involved. That seems to be the course taken with the invasive reeds.
Of course these bike enthusiasts don’t pay taxes and are too young to cast a vote.
Reader Lisa Lacey puts it nicely.
“Now they will complain that these same children are getting into mischief after they have taken away all the things for them to do. Seriously, these children took it upon themselves to be creative and make something to do, which today is a rate thing, and the city wasn’t willing to find a way to work with them.”
Shades of the city’s first skate park. Build it, forget about it, tear it down for lack of maintenance.
Why should we believe Tucker’s claim he has plans to build a new BMX park when he hasn’t even discussed it with council?
In a word – convenient.

NOT THE ONLY ONE
Could it be Malcolm Hopkins is not the only staffer cut loose over at St. Thomas-Elgin General Hospital of late?
We have heard rumblings of front-line staff who have either been let go or ‘retired’ – without the option of returning the next day as was the case with CEO Paul Collins.
While we don’t know the value of Hopkins’ buy-out – you can bet at least a year’s salary, if not closer to a couple of years – more than a few readers wonder why this was necessary when the hospital needs to entice the community to dig deep for funds to support revitalization and new equipment.
One reader offers the following suggestion: “The answer is easy . . . release and buy out Paul Collins’ contract and let the organization heal! Bring in new leadership . . . the hospital foundation is losing millions in public donations each year having him at the helm. Figure it out folks! This story is not going away.”
Losing millions may be stretching matters a little, however based on the feedback to this corner, as long as Collins is driving the bus, fundraisers are going to have a tough go freeing up dollars from more than a few individuals and families.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“Maybe they could have had someone come out and see if there was a safer way to create it, or move it back. Instead they’ve just taken it down.”
Suzie Dennis wonders why the city was quick to tear down an impromptu BMX course – constructed by local youngsters and teens – without any consultation on how to minimize risk of injury for users.

City Scope appears Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions or comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca

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