It was a coincidence that Saanich resident Julius Spindler happened to be home on the morning of Oct. 4. He’d been at an appointment and stopped at home for a coffee before heading to work.
His wife, Pam Delaney, was shocked when he called to tell her that two young men were on their property chopping down her precious raspberry bush.
Spindler’s next call was to the police.
It turned out that the workers had been contracted by Saanich to eradicate invasive species, specifically Japanese knotweed. They had an aerial view map of the neighbourhood and pointed to a yellow dot on the map that corresponded to Delaney’s bush.
The young workers said that they’d been directed to cut down that specific bush, said Delaney.
There had been no notice that the crews were coming by. She feels the crew members are victims too as the map they had was outdated and the information they were given was wrong – her raspberry bush was not an invasive species to be eradicated.
The bush was a gift from her 93-year-old aunt who had dug up the plants and given them away when she moved from her home to a condo. She would check in to make sure her plants were being taken care of.
This year, the harvest was “incredible” and Delaney had picked berries up to two days before the bush was cut down on Oct. 4 – her aunt’s birthday.
In 2014, Delaney, who does volunteer restoration at Swan Creek, signed up for the District’s Invasive Species Management program and crews came to eradicate the Japanese knotweed in her yard in 2015.
The plants can’t just be chopped down because they’ll grow back thicker, she explained. The crews used herbicides in her yard to get rid of the knotweed. Delaney has monitored the situation but none have grown back. She also noted that the District checked in on the situation in 2018.
Delaney feels that signing up for the program put her on the District’s radar.
Police came by on Oct. 4 after Spindler called and took down everyone’s names but no charges were laid. Sgt. Julie Fast of the Saanich Police explained that the situation was not a trespassing incident and was a result of miscommunication.
Delaney left messages for Mayor Fred Haynes and the Parks Department after the incident, but hasn’t heard from anyone in a leadership position. She wants action and restitution in the form of compensation.
In a written statement, the District of Saanich indicated that the incident is being taken seriously and that the invasive species management model is being reviewed.
“Saanich has sincerely apologized for the loss of the prized raspberries and will be following up with the land owner to discuss next steps,” said a District spokesperson.
The spokesperson noted that Saanich is dedicated to removing invasive species and that the contractors were trying to help with that.
“Despite efforts to properly plan for this work within our normal processes, an error occurred.”
Delaney noted that excuses don’t make up for what happened.
“This was a big mistake, I felt physically kicked in the stomach.”
She hopes the District makes an effort to make amends.