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City of Red Deer’s prized flower garden is less than impressive this summer, says resident

Dennis Burk says weeding and deadheading is being neglected
Dennis Burk points out all the marigolds that need deadheading along the border of flower beds in Red Deer’s City Hall Park. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

The flower garden in Red Deer City Hall Park is looking less glorious this summer — and its dimmed beauty hasn’t gone unnoticed.

Red Deer resident Dennis Burk said he and his wife were picnicking in the park — which is usually the pride of the city — last weekend. They left feeling very unimpressed by the state of the flower beds.

Rather than being immaculately groomed, as they have been in the past, “the maintenance is horrid. Weeds everywhere,” no deadheading of withered blooms, “just plain ugly,” Burk said, in a letter he later sent to the Advocate and city hall staff.

“Can we not afford to maintain what could be beauty?”

According to Greg Sikora, parks and public works manager for the City of Red Deer, unusually rainy weather — not budget cuts — is to blame for the garden’s diminished aesthetics.

“Monsoon June became monsoon July, ” said Sikora, and the excessive moisture did a number on the 40,000 annuals planted in City Hall Park.

After being pelted by so much rain, the flowers only recently began to regain some of their colour and lushness, he added. “They got beaten to the ground by falling projectiles. It took a bit of the glow out of them.”

Too much wetness also caused a proliferation of weed growth.

Sikora said city arborists have noticed certain trees growing nearly three feet since the spring. The same conditions have caused dandelions and thistles to sprout extra tall while making it hard for city gardeners to get into the flowerbeds to do weeding without sinking into the mud, said Sikora. “Access was an issue.”

He noted three weeding cycles are usually completed by now, but city gardeners just managed to make their first pass through the flower beds on Tuesday. “We do weeding by hand, we don’t use pesticides and herbicides, so we could only get in so far,” he explained.

Although the City of Red Deer reduced overall staff by five per cent, saving $7 million, in 2020, Sikora said budget cuts have not affected the maintenance of City Hall Park, as it’s a popular year-round destination for Red Deerians and visitors.

Burk said that’s why he’s taking issue with the park’s less than ideal appearance. He’s unconvinced that weather is behind all of the neglect, saying as this is the second year he’s noticed a profusion of weeds in the flower beds and withered blooms that needed dead-heading.

The downtown flower garden represents the city to many visitors, so should be maintained with more care and pride, Burk added.

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Some of the colour and lushness is returning to Red Deer’s City Hall Park as flowers recover from being pelleted by excess rain earlier this summer, said parks and public works superintendent Greg Sikora. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).