Gardening column: Richmond's parks are tinder boxes

The sun continues to give us the summer we dream about during the cold days of winter.  With temperatures soaring this week to the low 30 degrees Celsius, we are experiencing tinder-dry conditions.

We all have been watching close to 30 major wildfires burning in B.C., with tragic results for the many communities affected by these massive fires.  One of the sad facts about forest fires is that many are caused by people, such as by dropping burning cigarettes.

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Why would the Richmond Garden Club be concerned about forest fires?  After all, most folks in the Lower Mainland almost feel immune to the rampage going on in the Interior.

Richmond Garden Club adopted Paulik Park, a city-owned park, in 2008.  The park consists of 1.5 acres of perennial garden beds, a playground, walking trails and an old forest.  Back in the 1930s the Paulik family visited the North Shore, just after the Lions Gate Bridge opened, to pick up some coniferous seedlings.  We now have magnificent towering trees in Paulik Park that are over 80 years old.

Richmond Garden Club members and community members maintain the perennial garden beds almost year round.  We feel a great sense of pride and ownership of the work we do in this lovely secret garden.  

The current fire risk in Paulik Park and all other parks and trails in the city is extreme. The city has closed some of the trails due to these hazardous conditions — Shell Road Trail, Horseshoe Slough Trail, Bridgeport Trail, Queens Canal Trail and the Richmond Nature Park trails.

In our own little park, there are signs advising visitors to the extreme conditions, including a smoking ban.  

Besides our huge fir trees, towering sequoias, pines and other coniferous trees, and the tinder-dry underbrush, much of the soil is peat, which can spread fire quickly.

We continue to approach people smoking in the park and ask them to put out their cigarettes. Last year, someone flicked their butt into the grass on the edge. It caught fire and rapidly grew.  We were very lucky that one of our volunteers was watering her garden bed and extinguished it quickly.

The City of Richmond has banned all open air burning and they offer great advice on their website on what we can do to protect our parks and trails by exercising extra caution. You can follow these tips:

-Do not toss smoking materials from vehicles.

-Do not dispose of butts in flower beds or bark mulch beds.

-Campfires and briquette barbecues are prohibited everywhere.

Lynda Pasacreta is the current president of the Richmond Garden Club.  For more information visit RichmondGardenClub.ca.

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