What's Up With That? Path upkeep is city's duty, but you can help

By Scott Hewitt, Columbian social issues & neighborhoods reporter

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"There is a walking path in Cascade Park that connects Southeast McGillivray Boulevard to 11th Street. This particular path is badly in need of upkeep. Whose duty is it to cut branches, pull weeds, etc. along the path? This can be seen from the McGillivray entrance, and schoolchildren use it to connect to Wy'east Middle School." — Absolutely anonymous

Your question, A.A., comes on the heels of a recent story about city sidewalks that made a point some find irritating: sidewalks are usually private property, yet the city has the power to tell private property owners how and when to maintain them, because they're dedicated to "public transportation," said public works spokeswoman Loretta Callahan.

But it's interesting to note that this situation is different. According to a plat map provided by Callahan, that pedestrian walkway was built into the Wy'east Meadows subdivision in 1991 and dedicated to Clark County. The city of Vancouver annexed all of Cascade Park from the county in 1996.

"Because this is a dedicated public easement, in this case the obligation for maintenance falls to the public, which means the city," Callahan said.

Simple enough. Callahan encourages you to submit a service request to the Operations Center of Vancouver Public Works, which is easily accomplished online at http://www.cityofvancouver.us/servicerequest. Click the "Grounds and Cemeteries" section and provide some details, especially the precise location of your concern. Or you can call 360-487-8177 with the same information. The city asks for your name and contact information in case there are questions.

Even better during this time of squashed public budgets, Callahan added, is volunteerism. In 2009, the city's grounds maintenance staff was cut by more than half, she said, but it remains responsible for 83 parks (517 acres); 11 open-space properties (50 acres); 58 special properties such as water stations, fire stations and an airport (271 acres); three cemeteries (70 acres); 72 miles of trails and walks; 577 center-line miles of streets (103 acre total); 108 acres of shrub beds; and an estimated 13,250 trees.

"In many cases …, adjoining property owners or civic-minded neighbors have stepped up to help with keeping these areas weed free and clear," she said. "Efforts such as this go a long way in helping out."

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the city, contact Hailey Health at 360-487-8316 or hailey.heath@cityofvancouver.us.