Saanich gets the raspberry after crew wrecks patch, leaving couple in a jam

A Saanich couple is starting to think their municipality has something against raspberry jam.

Hard on the heels of one Saanich homeowner having a jam stand shut down by bylaw officers, a couple in the Marigold neighbourhood has had an entire raspberry patch hacked to pieces by contractors reportedly working on behalf of the municipality.

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Pamela Delaney and husband Julius Spindler said their 50 square feet of ever-bearing raspberry bushes were destroyed Oct. 4 by a pair of contractors hired by Saanich’s environmental services department.

“I’m just outraged by this,” said Delaney. “They showed up at my house unannounced and cut down all my raspberries. It’s pretty shocking they would operate in this manner — there wasn’t even a knock on the door or an email to warn us.”

Delaney said she felt like she’d been kicked in the gut, and wondered what had happened to a homeowner’s property rights.

When the couple noticed a pair of young men cutting down the bushes, they called Saanich police, who attended the scene.

The contractors showed them an aerial map of the property and said they were sent to remove an invasive species called Japanese knotweed.

But that doesn’t explain why they would take down raspberry bushes, said Spindler, noting the bushes were covered in raspberries at the time and any landscaper or gardening contractor who has spent any time in a garden ought to know the difference between the fruit and knotweed.

Delaney has been a supporter of Saanich’s Invasive Species Management Strategy for dealing with plants such as Japanese knotweed, which the couple had removed from their property in 2015.

She said she wonders if this kind of thing could happen to anyone else who gets on that program’s radar.

“I think this is a warning that this can happen to you,” she said. “What a bad promo for the invasive species program.”

Spindler points out that even if the contractors got the right house and the right plant, they were going about dealing with Japanese knotweed the wrong way.

“It’s a serious business, this getting rid of invasive species,” he said, noting that when they went through it in 2015, it took months and involved detailed surveys, pictures and legal procedures. He said he was told the one thing they shouldn’t do is cut down the plants.

“But now, just a few years later, they just send a couple of kids down to cut them down? A lot of things seem to have gone wrong here,” he said.

Saanich Mayor Fred Haynes told the Times Colonist the head of environmental services is aware of the complaint and an investigation is underway, but they had no other details to share at this point.

Delaney said she is hopeful the plants, which have been in their family for about 50 years and provide plenty of fruit between June and December each year, will grow back.

In the meantime, Saanich sent Delaney and Spindler a claim form for compensation.

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