Treefest organizers are devastated over the state of the Riverview Hospital lands as they prepare to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the group's marquee event
this weekend. Riverview Horticultural Centre Society president Norma Gillespie said Thursday the grass on the grounds has reached more than a metre in length, while fallen trees are also strewn about the property.
Saturday's event is expected to draw hundreds, if not thousands, of visitors from across the region to the 244-acre hospital site.
"We can't believe this is happening. We're devastated," she said. "It's extraordinary that this is being allowed to take place. Not being able to see where you're stepping is a big problem."
Gillespie said she and others reached out to the province as recently as last week asking for some maintenance work, but were told that none would take place ahead of Treefest because of financial concerns.
"I tried and got nowhere. It wasn't going to happen," she said. "We all feel it might be more than a dollars and cents issue, that they just want the place to look like the situation is hopeless."
Shared Services BC, a branch of the Ministry of Technology, Innovation and Citizens' Services, is the government agency tasked with maintaining the site. A ministry spokesperson told the Tri-Cities NOW Thursday that "most areas have been cut two or three times" over the course of the summer.
"This government recognizes that ongoing fiscal discipline and tough choices are needed to make sure facilities such as courts, jails and service delivery offices are safe and maintained," the statement read.
"As a result, in some instances where buildings are not being used, such as Riverview, we have reduced the schedule of cosmetic maintenance that is not essential to ensuring the safety or structural integrity of the buildings." Some in the community feel as though no landscaping work has been done on the site this summer.
"They're clearly not maintaining the property," said Coquitlam-Maillardville MLA Selina Robinson. "The Liberals are saying one thing and doing another. We have seen this repeated over and over. It's ridiculous. Unbelievable."
Coun. Craig Hodge, chair of the city's Riverview advisory committee, said invasive species have recently began popping up among the coveted 1,800 trees found in the arboretum.
"The way things look is just disgusting. It's disheartening to see the grounds in this shape," he said.
He also noted the city tried to arrange for a meeting with Andrew Wilkinson, the minister of technology, innovation and citizens' services, but was denied. The ministry spokesperson suggested Wilkinson's schedule will not allow for a meeting, and that ministry staff will meet with city staff instead.
Despite the unsightliness, Gillespie maintains Saturday's show must go on. The event runs from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. near the Industrial Services Building, and will include walking tours, kids activities, heritage building tours and more.
"The tours will go on as scheduled," she said. "We have great leadership. We're all going to give it our best."
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