Mother calls for change after finding used needles on Vancouver playground
VANCOUVER - A Vancouver mother is raising concerns after she found used needles on a local playground this weekend.
Katie Lewis has lived in the Strathcona neighbourhood for more than three years. She takes her four-year-old twins to MacLean Park almost every day, but was forced to make it off limits on Saturday.
"We found that the park was just strewn with needles,” Lewis said, pointing to an area under the slide.
Photos show drug paraphernalia, garbage, and about a dozen exposed needles scattered in the sand.
"My husband called 311 and they told him that they contract out the service and it would take around one business day for them to come and clean up needles that all over our kid's playground,” Lewis said.
That meant the sharp objects would remain on the playground for at least another 48 hours. She decided to block off the area and use gloves and tongs to remove them herself.
"I don't think that's acceptable," Lewis said. "This isn't a candy wrapper on the ground. This is dangerous for kids."
Some of her neighbours share her concerns.
"It should be faster than that for sure,” said Matthew Macret, as he pushed his toddler on the swings at MacLean Park.
Others are more worried about the stigma addicts face.
"The danger of getting something transmittable if you happen to get poked with a needle is very minimal. I think people are obviously looking out for their kids of course,” said Carter Dumanowski, who lives nearby.
Vancouver Coastal Health says it “understands the frustration and concern of community members.”
“The risk to the public is extremely low; no one has ever acquired HIV, or any other pathogen, from a needle-stick injury from a discarded needle in a park or any other public place in Vancouver,” said the health authority in a statement.
Kids playing in the park told CTV News they weren’t surprised needles were found. They said it’s a part of growing up in the neighbourhood. One teen said she was taught not to throw snowballs or jump in piles of leaves, because of what may lie underneath.
Lewis started teaching her twins about needle safety when they were just two-years-old. She says it’s important to tell kids what to look for so they can stay clear.
"It makes me sad, but it's also part of the reality," Lewis said. "This is a disease and we're not managing it. There's a lot of people struggling right now, but at the same time I really want to keep my family safe."
She’s asking the city to make needle disposal pickup service available seven days a week.