News

Student letter prompts park cleanup in Maple Ridge

Haley Murgatroyd,  12, walks past a stream in Reg Franklin Park, which was cleaned by the district on Thursday, after she complained about the park being full of litter. The previous day condoms, drug paraphernalia and garbage was strewn throughout the park, adjacent to Eric Langton Elementary School. - Colleen Flanagan/The News
Haley Murgatroyd, 12, walks past a stream in Reg Franklin Park, which was cleaned by the district on Thursday, after she complained about the park being full of litter. The previous day condoms, drug paraphernalia and garbage was strewn throughout the park, adjacent to Eric Langton Elementary School.
— image credit: Colleen Flanagan/The News

Haley Murgatroyd has always known Reg Franklin Park, a patch of green, adjacent to her school, was a place that's off limits.

She's seen teenagers stumble out of bushes, drug deals and the homeless bed down for the night near the stream that trickles below.

"It's always been gross," says Murgatroyd, a Grade 7 student at Eric Langton elementary.

A field trip to the park last Friday, however, forced Murgatroyd to use another superlative.

"It's one of the most scariest places in Maple Ridge," she says.

Her class headed into the park for a science lesson to find living and non-living things interacting with each other, but instead found a place littered with hazards.

She says there were syringes, beer bottles, lighters and condoms.

There wasn't an organism in sight.

"I don't think they can live in that water," Murgatroyd said as she describes a dying brook that's "bubbling, disgusting and orange."

Murgatroyd's complaints, however, are familiar to the school, although principal John Wheatley says he didn't hear about the class' experience from her teacher.

"It's always been a space where teenagers have gathered and sometimes the homeless," said Wheatley.

"It's not a spot where we let the kids go too often."

A fence was built earlier this year between the school and park.

The park has always been littered with garbage, but Wheatley adds the school has not called the parks department to complain.

"It's not an issue for the school," he said.

Murgatroyd's complaints however, prompted quick action from the District of Maple Ridge, which sent workers to the park Thursday, a day after being forwarded a letter from her.

Director of parks and facilities David Boag commended Murgatroyd for taking the time to report a "potentially unsafe" condition.

"We rely on our parks patrons a great deal to be our eyes and ears in our parks, and certainly appreciate a phone call or a memo reporting any unsafe conditions," said Boag.

Litter patrols in areas such as Reg Franklin Park are scheduled every two weeks. However, Boag indicated that when the district receives a complaint or concern, it can alter the schedule to have the site checked much sooner.

Parks staff did not find any syringes inside the park, but are planning to add garbage bins to reduce litter.

The Alouette River Management Society believes the stream that runs through the park is an arm of Morse Creek, which feeds into the South Alouette River.

Acting executive director Greta Borick-Cunningham said Murgatroyd's school might want to adopt the stream.

Murgatroyd thinks that's a great idea.

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