by Gary McKenna - The Tri-City News
posted Mar 25, 2015 at 4:00 AM
The chafer beetle infestation will cost Coquitlam taxpayers an estimated $250,000 in remediation work and more money may be necessary to upgrade lawns on city land that are vulnerable to the pest.
According to a city staff report, 55,000 sq. m of the city’s 682,000 sq. m of civic landscape, or 8%, has been affected by the beetle and the animals — including raccoons and crows — that eat it. The bulk of the damage has been concentrated in the city’s western and central neighbourhoods while city land on Westwood Plateau and in northeast Coquitlam have been relatively untouched.
One piece of city land that has been particularly hard hit is the Robinson Memorial Cemetery, which has seen 33% of its lawn area affected by the pest.
“Based on this assessment, a turf remediation program has been developed and will commence shortly,” the report stated. “It is expected that this insect will continue to be an ongoing challenge in Coquitlam, requiring a higher level of proactive turf-care practices that will help ensure against repeated turf destruction.”
The chafer beetle was first noticed in New Westminster in 2001 and has since spread to neighbouring communities. The pests bury themselves in lawns, which are then torn apart by raccoons and crows looking to eat the insects.
Residential lawns across Coquitlam have been affected and city lands have not been immune to the infestation.
“There is a lot of damage all over the place,” Raul Allueva, Coquitlam’s general manager of parks and recreation, said last month. “It is very extensive.”
But the staff report notes that lawns that are well-watered and properly maintained are less likely to see the kind of destruction that has hit some properties.
For this reason, sports fields have managed to avoid some of the issues facing properties that are only passively maintained.
Staff is recommending the city step up its maintenance efforts, adding irrigation and lawn alternatives when it is possible. A budget request for the additional work will be made in 2016.
Coun. Chris WIlson voiced some concerns about the additional irrigation, saying that this could send the wrong message to residents when the city has for years been encouraging water conservation and limited lawn sprinkling.
“We are going to be advocating that people have healthier lawns, which means they will have to water it more,” he said during Monday’s meeting. “We are going to be watering our grass more often.”
While additional irrigation of city land would likely require more water, staff said that the city’s automated sprinkler system ensures lawns are watered at off-peak times, like in the middle of the night. Watering grass during cooler times of day also increases the amount that can soak into the ground, maximizing efficiency.
The $250,000 in estimated remediation work will come from a number of sources, according to the staff report. The damage at Robinson Memorial will be paid for with $30,000 in cemetery fees while $50,000 for the United Boulevard area will come from a Pacific Reach specified maintenance fund the city maintains.
Another $70,00 can be covered through the city’s regular park operations budget and an additional $100,000 for the remediation was approved by council on Monday night.