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Point Edward park plans draw mixed reviews

Cathy Dobson Point Edward council intends to take advantage of a rare Ontario Trillium Foundation grant for major reconstruction of a Monk Street park, but some residents are unhappy.
Point Edward operations manager Paul Churchill with the artist’s concept drawings. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson

Point Edward council intends to take advantage of a rare Ontario Trillium Foundation grant for major reconstruction of a Monk Street park, but some residents are unhappy.

They are complaining that they didn’t get enough input into the plan and that several park features will disrupt their quiet street that overlooks the Sarnia Yacht Club.

“Would you want a parking lot beside your house?” asked Shamine MacKenzie during a public meeting May 14 in packed council chambers.

MacKenzie’s family lives immediately south of the park that has offered nothing but two aging tennis and pickle ball courts for many years.

The addition of a playground, an adult fitness area, a sport court and four-car parking lot will eat up green space, MacKenzie said.

The parking lot is a key feature as it includes an accessible space, which is something the Trillium Foundation favours, said village administrator Jim Burns.

A Trillium grant for $135,000 has been approved and will absorb about half the cost of the park reconstruction, said Burns.

“We were really surprised when we were selected because it’s a very competitive process,” he said.

It would be very difficult to move the parking lot, which is to run along the property line that the park shares with the MacKenzies, he said.  “The parking lot needs to be there for accessibility.”

Linda Ricker, a neighbour who lives across the street, said she also objects to the parking lot and is concerned about the security lights and trees that might obstruct her view.

“I wish there had been more information earlier in the process,” Ricker told council.

“Why the secrecy?” asked MacKenzie. “My husband (Fire Chief Doug MacKenzie) is employed by the village and comes into the municipal office nearly every day.

“Why wasn’t anything said to him?”

But Burns and Deputy Mayor Greg Grimes said proper protocol was followed and two public meetings about the park plan resulted in significant changes to try to address concerns.

Playground equipment that was going to be situated next to the MacKenzie’s backyard has been moved farther north, as has a sport court.

Another Monk Street resident, Janet Andrews, said she too was disappointed the neighbourhood was not consulted more.

“The only thing everyone agrees on is the refurbishing of the tennis courts,” she said. “But you are paving over green space with that sports court.

“It would make more sense to put it under the bridge.”

While some had complaints, others said they were fully supportive.

Longtime Monk Street resident Peter Leaver said he enjoys watching people in the park across the street from his house and welcomes additional uses.

“As far as I am concerned, we are blessed to live in this village,” he said. “It’s a great thing, what you people have come up with.  Let her rip. The noise is no problem.”

His daughter, Sasha Gladwish, also lives on the street and said she looks forward to the park’s revitalization.

“Thank you for your work in getting the grant,” she told staff and council. “I’m happy with what you’re doing.”

Village resident Lindsay Kirkland said she works with children with disabilities and an accessible parking space off the road is required for safety reasons.

Council listened to about a dozen residents before Coun. Larry Gordon made a motion to endorse the park upgrade and direct staff to confirm final costs based on moving some of the features, but not the parking lot.

“I believe this is a very positive thing,” Gordon said. “We in Point Edward are very fortunate to have our waterfront walking trail and parks. Other municipalities are very envious of all our valuable assets.”

“Our greatest asset is our parks,” said Grimes. “This plan incorporates all ages and all abilities…I think this park will create a space for families to spend time together.”

Council voted unanimously to go ahead with the plan. Mayor Bev Hand did not attend the meeting after declaring a conflict of interest based on owning property on the street.

The contract is expected to be awarded later this month. Work will begin immediately and finish sometime in August.

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