A local conservation society has questioned the tradition of piling up pumpkins outside the entrance of Mount Douglas Park. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Saanich conservation group wants to smash local pumpkin tradition

Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society says it’s inappropriate to dump pumpkins outside landmark park

A local conservation group believes it is time for an old tradition to whittle away like, say, an old pumpkin after Halloween.

Ed Wiebe, a spokesperson for the Friends of Mount Douglas Park Society, said his organization does not support members of the public dumping their old pumpkins in Mount Douglas Park.

“Some pumpkins are painted, or contain batteries, lights, candles, plastic or aluminum from tea candles, and so on,” he said. “Regardless of the cleanliness of the pumpkins, it’s not appropriate to dump them in the park no matter what the intentions, as say, a tradition, may be.”

The pumpkins should instead go to an appropriate composting facility if they are suitable, he said. Wiebe said the tradition also taxes municipal resources, because crews have to clean up the area.

“I’m sure some people will believe we are being grumpy about a long-standing tradition,” said Wiebe, adding that people eager to continue the tradition can continue it on private property. “However, traditions can start for a lot of reasons and in this case it’s inappropriate for the park.”

To make this point, the society actually sent out a tweet in questioning the tradition.

Notably, the society was more open to the tradition last year.

“As long as they get picked up, it doesn’t hurt the park,” said Darrell Wick, society president. This said, the practice can pose a danger for the people, who are dropping off pumpkins, because traffic along the road can be heavy, he said. People could also unintentionally be spreading pumpkins throughout the park.

It is not clear when and why the main entrance to Mount Douglas Park turned into ghoulish grave for hundreds of pumpkins.

RELATED: Mystery surrounds Saanich pumpkin ritual

Chris Poirier-Skelton, president of the Gordon Head Residents’ Association, whose area includes the park, said the tradition dates back 15 to 20 years and the question of whether this tradition should continue has not come up. “Actually, I like it,” Poirier-Skelton said.

Countless locals and visitors stop outside the entrance following Halloween to take pictures of the pumpkins, and the District of Saanich appears to take a relaxed attitude towards the practice.

Eva Riccius, Saanich’s senior manager of parks, said residents should place their pumpkins in decomposing bins. This said, staff won’t stop people from dropping off their pumpkins near the park entrance.

“We are not going to have anybody there, saying, ‘you can’t do this,’” she said.

Depending on their state of decay, staff will pick up the pumpkins within a week, she said, adding they will take them to a composting facility.

Riccius said in an interview last year that it takes crews a couple of hours to clean up the pumpkins. “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,” she said.

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