“(Kitchissippi) is one of the up and coming areas of the city. There’s a lot of new development, and you’ve got to concentrate on an area of the city that people are coming to,” says Damien Coakeley, a member of the Ottawa Safety Council’s board of directors.
Between 1972 and 2006, the council was involved in delivering children’s educational and safety programming through a Children’s Safety Village in Britannia Park. It was also a partnership between the city, police and fire services and taught more than 500,000 children valuable lifesaving skills. However in 2006, there were significant repair requirements and loss of key funding that led to the closure’s facility.
Seven years later, the Ottawa Safety Council is committed to bringing the safety village back to the city – which includes children’s programming, but also a centre where all community members’ needs can be met.
Coakeley and project developer Kate Boyd were available at the Hintonburg Community Centre on July 23 to hear suggestions from the community on what they would like to see in the potential safety village.
“We’re going across the city to get feedback and generate ideas to make sure our vision is correct,” says Boyd. “There are a lot of young families and seniors, so we’re hoping to get those different perspectives on different programs.”
Coakeley, a retired police officer and Westboro resident, thinks Kitchissippi residents could particularly benefit from a Safety Village in Ottawa that teaches bicycle safety.
“A big thing around here is cycle safety, as far as I’m concerned,” he says. “I see it all the time, and it’s a pet peeve. There are people who disobey cycling laws, but if you want to change people’s behaviour, you won’t change adults or teens.”
He says he would like to see the Safety Village teach young children bicycle safety tips, and rules for cycling.
“I think that’s certainly the key for this area, with all the new people and condos being built,” he says.
Boyd adds that cycle safety could be an important component of the safety village, especially since it’s also a city-wide issue.
“There’s certainly been a prevalence of accidents with the young and elderly, and there can be tensions between cyclists and drivers,” she says, adding that each community in the city will have different needs. “Once we’ve had the community’s input, we’ll go back and look at the information we’ve gathered and make sure the vision we have is accurate and reflective of the community.”
Coakeley adds that he hopes the Village will become a reality, and once they have found a potential spot, it will play an important role in the city.
“There are new dangers we always face in life, whether it’s disaster planning or teaching kids proper hand signals on their bikes,” Coakeley says. “The laws are forever changing, and we need an outlet to educate people. There’s so much to learn, and so much to know.”
Residents are welcome to submit their suggestions for the Safety Village by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. until Wednesday, Aug. 14.
The community can also connect with the Ottawa Safety Council and stay up-to-date on their progress on Facebook, or on Twitter by following @SafetyOttawa.