Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on May 25, 2020.

It’s not every day that you see someone in a municipal park hacking away at Saskatoon bushes with a chainsaw. You think you saw everything until you see that. On any given Saturday morning people come to Peterson Creek Park without a chainsaw, unless of course, they are city employees and they need to attend to some issues in the said park.

Well, someone who was not in any way authorized to do so thought he’d bring a chainsaw and deal with some ‘unruly’ Saskatoon bushes. In plain view, that is, in case you are wondering, on a well-trafficked trail. People walked by and the chainsaw massacre continued until someone confronted the handler and passersby started paying attention. He hopped on a bike and off he went.

Everyone appreciates good work done for everyone’s benefit. But unless the city has been notified and they agreed to have volunteers take care of the work for them, it’s hands-off for many reasons. One is that people can get injured. Another is that the line between helping when needed and ‘hacking away at branches that are in my way’ becomes a bit blurry.

So, the best way to do it is to let parks be. Notify the city if something needs to be attended to but don’t take it upon yourself to save the day.

I love Peterson Creek Park to a fault which is why I resent any harm that could come to it by the hand of its visitors. And harm is occasionally visible.

Over the years I have seen evergreen branches which hung over trails snapped off and thrown to the side of the trail – not by park caretakers; I also witnessed an early morning chainsaw buzz that got rid of a few trees blocking the view from someone’s property.

I have seen trails grow increasingly wider in part because bikes fly too fast down the hill and need to take wide turns, thus increasing slope erosion; I have seen people walking off the designated trails because they prefer shortcuts – it means erosion and trampling over flora and fauna that are meant to be treated with respect by all visitors.

During these tough times, municipal parks have offered a blissful refuge to Kamloops folk who wanted to get away from the madness. The last thing anyone should do is ‘tweak’ them to make them more suitable for their purpose.

It is true that the number of respectful hikers and cyclists is higher than those who make us shake our heads, so here’s to hoping everyone sticks to treading lightly.

Until then, this needs to be addressed. Customizing a park according to individual needs is just wrong.

So is not respecting someone else’s land when they graciously agreed to let hikers and cyclists use their trails.

Case in point: the Pineview Trail Network was recently opened after many weeks of closure. The last line in the May 12 reopening announcement by the Kamloops Performance Cycling Center (KPCC) and Sugarloaf Ranches reads, ‘This access is a privilege.

A few days later a note was issued on behalf of the ranch.

Some of the hikers and cyclists who used the trails had left the gates open and animals got out, which  put them at risk of being hurt or lost. Trampling of said privilege, pun not intended.

Again, not by the majority of trail users, but that’s how it goes with these things. It takes a few people behaving badly to ruin it for everyone else.

Let’s all look after our cherished green spaces a bit better, whether they are city property or private land that allows respectful visitors. Both are a privilege, albeit an understated one at times. Many of our family and friends from out of town who have visited us here over the years have been in awe of how good we have it. It will stay that way only if we all tread lightly and respectfully.