Development of neighbourhood park sparks debate

By Karen Fallon

Several residents disagreed on whether municipal property in the Edgewater area should be officially named as a park.

Kristy LaJoy, appeared before council to ask that council consider letting area children play on the municipally owned one acre site in the Edgewater area, with the possibility of installing a picnic table and erecting a park sign.

In time, she adds, low cost playground equipment could be added to the site.

LaJoy says children in that area currently don’t have a park they can walk to. This is compounded by the fact that there are no sidewalks along the roads in the area.

Rick Daly, manager of business development and programming, was asked by council to conduct a feasibility study regarding a park in Edgewater after the town received a request to establish the neighbourhood park.

The initial cost to prepare the site and install playground structures could be upwards of $50,000, notes Daly.

In 2009 a Comprehensive Playground Inspection Report was done by a Certified Playground inspector and three of the eleven existing Amherstburg playgrounds needed “extensive repairs” to bring them up to code with the Canadian Standard for Public Play Spaces.

“If we don’t follow those CSA standards we are opening up ourselves up to litigation,” said Daly.

Councillor Robert Pillon noted that if the town erected a sign on the site there would also be the issue of liability to the municipality.

This would have to be investigated with the town’s insurance broker and solicitor, responded Daly.

According to Lou Zarlenga, director of engineering and infrastructure, there are two pieces of municipal property in the Edgewater area. One of which serves as the outlet for the sanitary sewer and the other is situated adjacent to a pumping station from the Edgewater lagoon.

LaJoy says she is just looking for the town to designate an area where the kids can play without being told “they can’t play there.”

“I don’t see why any (municipal) blank piece of grass, or field can’t be used for play,” said councillor Carolyn Davies. “Children are children they have the right to just step out of their house and play.”

Denise Drouillard informed council that not all Edgewater home-owners are eager to see a designated park as it would disrupt the “peace and tranquility of the area.”

“I have no problem with it as a play area, says Drouillard, who noted that a petition has been presented to the town signed by those opposing the development of a local park. “But I don’t want kids coming from all and not respecting the area.”

The municipal lot in question is already used by area children as an informal gathering area, noted Drouillard.

According to Daly’s report: “There are eleven parks with assorted playground structures situated strategically throughout Town, the sites for which were chosen to “try and accommodate as many families as possible” either by foot or vehicular transport.

These include Golfview and Ranta Park, both of which have new play ground equipment and are in the vicinity of the Edgewater homes.

Appearing as a separate delegation Ted Popel, who carried with him parts of the town’s Official Plan, says the document indicates that neighbourhood parks should be made available to the majority of the residents.

Opposed to community parks, smaller neighbourhood parks are “small potatoes” that are nestled in local neighbourhoods and offer passive recreation, says Popel.

Council agreed with the motion to have the town’s solicitor and insurance carrier comment on the feasibility and liability of making the area into a play area.

It was also agreed that the by-law enforcement officer would be directed to check out whether vehicles are being parked illegally on the municipal Edgewater property.

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