WENATCHEE — Visitors to city parks should be able to see the playgrounds, ball fields, picnic shelters and wading pools a little better through the weeds this summer.
Four years after the city curtailed fertilizing grass and spraying weeds in most of its 13 urban parks, the program for treating grass and weeds has restarted at the urging of Mayor Frank Kuntz. Park crews will also be mowing a little more often and have replanted flower beds that have been empty for many of the last four or five years.
“Having my kids play ball at Lincoln Park and seeing all those weeds got me thinking that we need to take better care of the parks,” Kuntz said. “I walk by Washington Park on my regular walking route and I saw those little flower beds with no flowers. Really? We can’t plant flowers? We can’t fertilize our grass? Come on!” The weed-control and fertilizing programs were largely stopped in 2009 because of budget cuts. It costs about $10,000 a year to buy the chemicals and supplies needed to control weeds. But the city also eliminated the funding to hire seasonal park employees to do the work.
The only parks that continued to be treated for weeds were Memorial Park right after the Apple Blossom Festival, when the grass was trampled to dirt and susceptible to weed infestation, and at Rotary Park, which has a dry soil that fosters rapid weed growth, said Public Works Director Dan Frazier.
Over the last four years, “everything was looking a little bit worse in the parks,” Frazier said.
“You could definitely tell by the quality of the grass and the weeds cropping up all over that we weren’t doing it,” said Parks Director Dave Erickson. “When I was coaching soccer last year, I could tell the dandelions were much worse.”
The worst parks for rampant clover and dandelions in the grass were Lincoln Park and Locomotive Park, Frazier said.
This year’s budget includes money to buy the chemicals and hire seasonal parks employees. Crews have been spraying weeds in all the parks this month, Frazier said.
“When the mayor was running for office he said he wanted to get the parks back into shape,” he added. “We’re doing it now.”
Frazier said it will take a few years of regular weed-control work for the parks to get back to the way they were before it stopped.
“It’s a pride-of-ownership thing,” Kuntz said. “We own them, and as a city we need to take pride in our parks. We haven’t done that in awhile and I’m glad to see us getting back to that now.”