By David F. Rooney
Josie Woodman was left feeling “disappointed and disillusioned” when Acting Mayor Linda Nixon announced that Council will not backtrack on its choice of Site Plan No. 3 as the template for the planned reorganization of Kovach Park.
Woodman has for years been working with other Southside residents to ensure that changes to the park’s design mandated by the planned construction of a new skateboard facility. Like other neighbourhood people she was shocked when she learned that the site plan recommended to Council at the end of February was Plan No. 3 — not the No. 4 plan they thought the Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee understood was the one they wanted.
A flurry of e-mail rockets residents aimed at City Hall brought Councillors back to the table. Citing Section 131 of the Community Charter, Connie Brothers who is the standing committee’s vice-chair, convened a meeting at the Community Centre on Monday evening to ensure that Woodman, Bob Melnyk and other neighbours could clearly voice their reasons for wanting Plan 4 over Plan 3.
However, the residents’ arguments for a more-balanced spread of activities across the park and ensuring a clear separation between areas used by seniors and young children and those favoured by older kids and teenagers were trumped by the fact that three different local RCMP officers who were independently asked to look at the two plans all favoured Plan 3 because it better addressed potential security concerns.
Staff Sgt. Kurt Grabinsky told the Tuesday night meeting that the layout of Plan 3 provided boundaries that small children were unlikely to cross there was better visibility around Plan 3’s recommended restroom location that the location specified in Plan 4.
Acting Mayor Linda Nixon said during Tuesday’s Council meeting that after listening to a full report about the Monday evening meeting she decided “there was a measurable safety difference” between the two plans and that that formed the basis for her decision to retain Plan 3.
“It might not sound like much to people,” she said, “but when we have professional staff (at) our table and they come forward with a statement that there is a measurable difference I go with the safety first.”
This should be a lesson for our entire Council: all it takes is a couple of relatively minor things to upset the public relations applecart. In this case it was a planned meeting earlier this winter that might have ensured, if all parties had attended, that everyone was on the same page. However, the meeting didn’t happen and when you couple that with Parks, Recreation and Culture Director Laurie Donato’s belief that the neighbourhood was deeply split over which design to pick. (it wasn’t; of 17 e-mails sent to Councillor Gary Sulz on this issue 13 favoured Plan 4 and 4 favoured Plan 3) and it’s not hard to see how things can get skewed. Having said that credit should be given to Council and the department for swiftly and openly working to ensure that Southside people had a chance to press their point of view home. That their arguments did not win the day is down to the fact that security concerns — even potential ones — will always trump almost everything else.
Please activate the YouTube viewer below to watch City Council’s Tuesday, March 24, meeting. You can see the two portions of the meeting dealing with the Kovach Park issue at 21-minute and 52-minute marks:
By David F. Rooney