METRO VANCOUVER -- All Hugh Francis wants is to be able to take his 11-year-old daughter, Livia, to see the koi fish and turtles in the lower pond at Central Park.
But after he read about the plan to drain the pond so that all invasive fish — including the snakehead fish believed to be on the loose — would be killed, Francis decided to do something about it.
On Wednesday afternoon, as more than a half-dozen city workers set up pumps to start draining the pond — the plan is to have half the pond drained by Friday, when Environment Ministry officials arrive — Francis twice turned them off.
With the city workers not wanting a confrontation, the pumps remained silent for several hours until just after 2:30 p.m., when word came for the workers to pack up for the day.
“When I read about the plan to drain the pond, I was so mad that I came down to see what I could do,” said Francis. “I come here three times a week with my daughter and I’m not going to let this happen. This park belongs to the public, all of us.”
Francis said he has the utmost respect for the city workers who were just doing their jobs, but he believes so strongly the drainage should not take place that he decided to engage in civil disobedience.
“I told them that they have to do what they have to do and I’ll do what I have to do,” said Francis. “I don’t want to get arrested, but if the police come and that’s what happens, I’ll take it from there.”
By 3 p.m., the police had not come and the city workers were busy putting their equipment into their truck.
“That’s great,” Francis said of the work being halted for the day. “What I don’t understand is they’re saying the snakehead will kill all the koi. Now if you drain the lake, you kill the koi too so what have you gained?”
The plan to drain the pond was first revealed Wednesday.
Dave Ellenwood, the City of Burnaby’s director of parks, recreation and cultural services, said the water level would be lowered to concentrate fish in smaller areas and assist in the effort to capture the snakehead and other alien species.“Provincial conservation officers will be on hand to identify invasive [species], and these will be removed for disposal,” he said.
On May 13, a Burnaby resident filmed a fish that appeared to be a snakehead and posted the video online, sparking a media frenzy and a hunt for the animal.
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