Make a decision, already
It struck me that councillors were not only reluctant to make a decision regarding two reports they received on Monday, most didn’t appear to even want to talk about them.
The two reports in question – one from clerk Debbie Leroux, the other from facilities manager Bob Ferguson – dealt with the same subject: selling off the King Street park.
For those who don’t know, the King Street park sits on the north side of the street between Beech and Balsam. If you didn’t know it was there, you’d likely go right past without noticing it. It is the size of a regular housing lot, with a single swing set and a sand box, mostly hidden by bushy trees. Not even a bench.
But as non-descript as it is, the park has loyal fans in the neighbourhood who have resisted various township attempts to sell it for the last 35 years. As was stated in the clerk’s report: “Each time that the municipality has proceeded to move the sale of the lands forward, the process has been met with opposition by the residents in the area.” I’m sure we can expect these supporters to once again put out a call to arms. I am equally sure members of council realize this, thereby leading to what appeared to me to be their reluctance to speak on the topic.
Mayor Dave Barton was not reluctant, noting a number of times that he passes the park often and sees no one there. Could that be, perhaps, because it houses only a single swing set and a sand box? A swing set that, according to Ferguson’s report, “will need to be removed or replaced in the near future.” I asked whether the township had conducted any surveys to determine how many children lived in proximity to the park. Answer: no.
Another part of the facilities manager’s report says: “The park is to the point that it will soon need some substantial tree thinning, shared fencing repairs and shared costs to repair a small crumbling retaining wall.” Could that be, perhaps, because of ongoing neglect? If it has been neglected to that stage, is it any wonder few people use it?
Both reports asked council to give staff direction on what to do regarding the park. And that’s where council showed their real reluctance. Instead of telling staff to proceed with all the various stages they would have to go through to sell the land or telling them to forget the whole idea, they passed the buck. They directed Leroux and Ferguson to do another report, complete with their recommendations.
In other words, they want staff to make the decision, a decision council was elected to make. They had all the facts they needed. Leroux provided detailed information of how previous attempts to sell the park had unfolded and what was involved. Ferguson gave them a detailed description of the park’s present state. After 35 years, it is time council made a decision: either sell the park or retain it permanently and maintain it properly as a small pocket of green space.
My guess is that when they finally are forced into making a decision, they will opt to sell the park. That’s not because I am a pessimist; it’s because council seems to be on selling spree.
Council sold the arena baseball field to the Durham District School Board. It sold the Siloam hall to a private owner. It is currently preparing to sell the old Goodwood Hall, a former municipal hall. The old fire hall is up for sale. Apart from the King Street park, Herrema Fields and a couple of other small urban parks are being seriously considered for sale. And, since Mayor Dave Barton has already indicated his intentions, I’d feel safe betting a dollar to a donut that the newly acquired Brock Street West property will be up for sale as soon as the culvert is finished.
The sale of all these properties, most of them likely to be turned over to residential use, might make some economic sense for the township, but I wonder if it isn’t just nibbling away, bit by bit, at the community’s soul. All (or most) of our recreational facilities will be put in the Fields of Uxbridge. Most of our heritage buildings will be up at the museum grounds. Most of the shopping will run south from Brock Street. Instead of integrating the community, we’re setting up little modules: shopping here, sports there, heritage over there, etc.
It seems to me that a postage stamp-sized park sitting unnoticed on a quiet residential street is rather insignificant on its own, but as part of a larger picture it might just be the place to start making a stand.
Tell me, am I wrong?