Scott Watkins checks out the pumpkins piled up outside the entrance of Mount Douglas Park. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Scott Watkins checks out the pumpkins piled up outside the entrance of Mount Douglas Park. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Mystery surrounds Saanich pumpkin ritual

Halloween might be over, but Jack-O-Laterns continue to thrill, at least until the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 8, when District of Saanich crews will pick up the pumpkins that currently line Cordova Bay Road as it rounds Mount Douglas.

It is not exactly clear why and when people started to place their Halloween pumpkins along the road, as well as near the park entrance. Eva Riccius, senior manager of parks in Saanich’s parks and recreation department, says this tradition goes back at least 10 years. “This is not an official Saanich event, but one that has sprung up in the community,” she said.

In fact, it is an event that has generated its own cult following. As walkers and hikers made their way through Mount Douglas Sunday morning, several stopped to marvel at the yellow mountain of pumpkins that had piled up near the entrance of the park, with a trio of young men snapping photos.

It has obviously caught on, said Darrell Wick, president of The Friends of Mount Doug Park Society.

“As long as they get picked up, it doesn’t hurt the park,” he said.

This said, the practice can pose a danger for the people, who are dropping off pumpkins, because traffic along the road can be heavy. People could also unintentionally be spreading pumpkins throughout the park.

While people would have gutted the pumpkins before carving them, the practice could nonetheless deposit seeds. “We would consider that a problem,” said Wick.

However, he stressed that the society and Saanich are on the same page, when it comes to this tradition.

Many basic facts about this tradition, however, remain shroudded in mystery, and may forever evade discovery. Who was the first person to start this tradition, its high priest so to speak? How many roadside pumpkins generally appear in his post-Halloween liturgy? What happens to the pumpkins once crews pick off them the road? What, if any role, does Great Pumpkin play? Is it perhaps proof of the Great Pumpkin’s existence?

Riccius has some, but not all of the answers. “It takes a couple of hours of parks staff to clean up the pumpkins,” she says. “Typically they remove 200-300 pumpkins. They are placed in a bin which is hauled up the peninsula for composting. Costs are typically in the order of $600 to $800.”