By Craig Lord –
Frigid temperatures weren’t enough to keep neighbours from celebrating the season at McKellar Park’s Winter Party on Feb. 20. Close to a hundred residents came to the park for the brisk bash, where Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Jeff Leiper joined organizers to cut the ribbon on the park’s new seating installation.
Three benches and eight boulders form a new hub in the park near the play structure that was constructed 10 years earlier. Over $14,000 had been raised from the annual Fall Festival fundraiser, $12,000 of which went towards the installation. A Community Partnership Minor Capital grant of $7,500 from the city made the rest of the project possible.
Doreen Jans, who spearheaded the project, says the seating area has been needed in McKellar Park for years.
“We have no natural gathering place in the park,” says Jans, noting only a few benches scattered throughout the area. [story continues below]
At the winter party, however, neighbours gathered around a roaring bonfire in the centre of the new installation. Popcorn and hot chocolate were covered by leftover funds from the project, and the field house provided a place to warm up or put on skates. Kids and adults alike navigated the popular winter labyrinth set up by organizers the previous night.
“Events like these add something special,” says Patti Church, a local community activist.
Church and many of those in attendance were part of the Friends of McKellar Park group who identified areas needing improvement in the park. The group of 22 included community leaders, representatives of Nepean High School and local students. The motivation for developing the park came from these community members.
“It was a community pull as opposed to a city push,” says Jans.
Coun. Leiper applauds the efforts that brought the project to completion.
“There’s only so much the city can do,” he says. “The degree to which a community is willing to pull up their sleeves is the degree to which they get things done.”
The efforts of the McKellar Park community were not lost on Mayor Watson either, as he spoke before the ribbon cutting.
“The great thing about a community like this is you’re involved, you’re engaged, and you care.”
Comments from numerous party-goers noted how special it was that even with harsh weather in the forecast, so many residents came out to be together. Church says that while the entire neighbourhood is impressive, she credits Jans with taking the park’s needs to heart.
“She’s the mastermind. She just loves the community so much,” Church says.
“The sense of community here is amazing. It’s phenomenal,” adds Jans.
While she’s pleased to have the seating project in the ground, Jans’ list for the park isn’t finished. She hopes this step can become a catalyst for others in the neighbourhood to begin work on developing a shaded shelter or a paved parking lot in the park.