Pooping and scooping was becoming a problem for Christine MacLean.
The uncut grass at her local park was so long that dog owners were beginning to have trouble picking up after their pets. Kids couldn't run through the field. Picnics were an impossibility.
Usually a vibrant neighbourhood gathering place, Merrill Bridge Road Park near Woodbine and Danforth Aves. sat empty as city work crews sat on picket lines.
So MacLean called her neighbours and organized a grass-cutting evening earlier this week. Eight lawn mowers tackled the grass, which had grown to nearly knee height. Suddenly, the park was alive again. The dog-walkers returned within minutes.
"The city belongs to everybody, not just the striking workers. It belongs to the taxpayers," said MacLean, a resident of the Beach. "We have to stop relying on the city to provide everything. The community has to take some kind of ownership and that's what we're doing."
These are just a few of the many residents who have grabbed mowers and headed to their local parks to cut grass in green spaces that have become increasingly unkempt in the absence of the city workers.
But the striking Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 416 is warning citizens who take maintenance into their own hands.
"You could use the word `scab,' " said local president Mark Ferguson. "Whenever we see people performing bargaining unit work during a labour disruption, it's certainly not helpful. Those actions only lead to prolonging the disruption."
Ferguson said if residents are unhappy with the state of their parks, they should urge their councillors to direct city staff to end the strike.
The grass on the field at Leaside High School near Bayview and Eglinton Aves. was getting so long that players in the Leaside-East Toronto Soccer Club were having trouble running. So John Morgan, convenor of the club, has cut the grass twice in the last week.
"It's very difficult for young children aged 4 to 7 to enjoy something that they've got to wade through," said Morgan, whose club's house league includes 1,800 players. "For older people, they don't enjoy it because it's not the same free-flowing game when the grass isn't cut."
Barb Di Nardo, an organizer of Cyberkids, a community sports group at Gwendolyn Park, borrowed a riding lawn mower two weeks ago and cut the park's grass herself.
On Monday, she recruited neighbourhood mothers to bring their mowers and cut the grass again.
"I am not a fan of strikes and I just wish everybody would get out and do these kinds of things. It's not going to infringe on us if we have to do a little extra community work."