VANCOUVER, Wash. – Deep budget cuts are showing in Vancouver, in the form of growing weeds and dry grass.
From city hall to city parks, public works crews that are much fewer in number are doing what they can, but they can’t get to it all.
Grounds maintenance crews have been cut by 56-percent since 2009, going from 34 workers, to 14.
"We do have people who have questions and ask, why is it this way. We talked about it last year and again this spring, but sometimes it doesn’t hit home until you see it," said Loretta Callahan of Vancouver’s Department of Public Works.
What people are seeing is dry grass and weeds in flower beds at city hall and the police administrative offices, and tall weeds uncut in city street medians and right of ways. They also see the few remaining workers trying to keep up.
“It wasn’t too bad in the beginning but now it’s starting to show. Everyone’s getting worn out, working hard and trying to keep everybody happy. You can only do what you can only do,” said city worker Chris Carley before mowing Marine Park near the Columbia River.
Crews are concentrating on larger community parks, and letting smaller neighborhood parks go for now.
“I would like to think it’s just a sign of the times, that it will pick up like the rest of everything -- the economy and what not,” said Vanessa Green as she visited Arnada Park with her two boys and dogs.
The reduction to landscape maintenance is one visible example of a much larger budget crisis that has meant $16 million in cuts and the elimination of 20-percent of the city’s workforce on the past two years.
Citizens can help fill in the gaps. To find out how, go to vanclarkparks.org and click on the “make a Difference” link.