At 84, Clay Lank doesn’t give too many hoots about bylaws or regulations. What he does care passionately about is McGuire Lake Park.
When Lank gets up in the morning and looks out the window of his apartment, McGuire Lake is what he sees.
“I see one of the best views in all of Canada,” he says, happily surveying his domain.
For several years, Lank has taken it upon himself to tidy up the park – gathering up cigarette butts and other garbage, recycling cans and –herein lies the trouble – clipping nuisance willow branches, trimming the tops off stumps, and pulling burdocks and thistles.
He said he was first told he shouldn’t be cutting a willow branch a few years ago when Brad Ackerman, the city’s former parks supervisor, saw him with his little handsaw.
However, he hasn’t been deterred.
A former farrier, he detests the burdock plants with their large wavy leaves and big velcro-like thistles that would attach themselves mercilessly to horses’ manes and tails. So he’s been busy trying to rid the park of the burdocks. And a couple of other thistles, he says.
He has also been pulling the grass poking up between the bricks on the memorial walkway.
Late last week he had just cut off an 11-foot willow branch, about three-quarters of an inch in diameter, which he says was hanging over the sidewalk.
He noticed city staff in a works truck across the street watching him.
“They’ve been concerned about my little nippers, that I’m infringing on their territory or going to put them out of work,” Lank surmises.
He was later given a municipal ticket by the bylaw officer.
The description of the offence is “damage park or public lands” and the fine amount is $100.
He was told he had been given a warning letter, but he hadn’t seen it. When he checked back at the McGuire Lake Congregate Living Facility where he lives, sure enough, there was one.
It had been hand-delivered on Sept. 4 and cites a section of Parks Regulation Bylaw #2119 which states, in part, that “No person shall deface, remove or otherwise damage any tree, shrub or other plant material growing in any park or public lands in the district…”
The letter also says removing or damaging vegetation in contravention of the bylaw could result in a ticket, a fine and “may also result in you being escorted from the park.”
Retorts Lank: “Picking up cigarette butts and garbage – if they want to come and assist me out of the park, they’re welcome to. This is still a free Canada – I hope.”
Maurice Roy, the city’s manager of permits and licensing, says the situation isn’t quite as straightforward as it might sound.
“He’s basically been asked to stop cutting vegetation down by the water’s edge. It’s kind of like a riparian zone so we don’t want him cutting down there.”
Roy says Lank has been asked several times by staff but doesn’t want to cooperate, so the city is having to take enforcement action.
“The first step is to give him a ticket.”
He said he realizes Lank is well-intentioned.
“There’s no doubt he’s very civic minded, I agree with that. He just shouldn’t be cutting down by the water.”
Roy said he met with Lank Wednesday morning and told him he would waive the ticket if Lank would agree to stop cutting.
“He told me verbally this morning, he’s not going to stop cutting.”
Roy says he will now have to confer with his supervisor, who is away until next week.
Lank told the Market News he’s going to fight the ticket.
“I’m doing it because I need the exercise, I enjoy the fresh air and it’s a beautiful place. And they say I’m damaging the thing? That’s what really bugs me.”