Story and photos by Francella Fiallos –
Reid Park, located south of the 417, may finally get a much-needed facelift if recent brainstorming discussions held on July 18 and July 22 in Hintonburg prove to be any indication.
The park was set for redevelopment back in 2013 when the city accepted a “cash-in-lieu” payment from Ashcroft Homes Ltd. to be used for a parkland fund, which seeks to enhance existing green space.
Preliminary proposals for redevelopment included replacing the Reid Park farmhouse with a 3,000 sq ft. community building, repurposing heritage stone from the farmhouse to accentuate playgrounds, and an off-leash area for dogs.
According to an update on the Kitchissippi ward website, there is $1 million earmarked for the park.
Councillor Jeff Leiper was left with the proposal to build the new community centre after the municipal election in October. However, a moratorium has been placed on development for a new building as Leiper stated in May that “the project is over-budget and staff have worked hard to scrounge more money from leftover park funds.”
What that means for the Kitchissippi community is that it’s back to square one when it comes to Reid Park.
Inspired by participatory budgeting in Latin American municipalities, Community Engagement Consultant and Project Facilitator, Wesley Petite, says informal gatherings to hammer out ideas are the best way to foster community and educate citizens on the civic process.
“It’s helping people develop a literacy and demystifying public expenditure,” he stated. “The citizen level offers a perspective that’s just as important as those in office.”
Both meetings had good turnouts and a diverse group of attendees says Petite.
“There was a little girl at the (July 18) meeting, but I couldn’t get her to participate much, sadly.”
Karen Wright, president of the Civic Hospital Community Association, also attended the July 18 meeting and was “very pleased at the level of engagement and enthusiasm shown by all participants.”
Things were no different at the July 22 meeting held at the Hintonburg Community Centre.
“People seem very open. There’s some tension, but that’s part of the process,” says Petite.
Most of the tension resulted in confusion as to how much was earmarked for the park. One attendee in particular vocalized how he was told that it was always $2.5 million.
Even though no decisions were made at either meeting, it is clear that Kitchissippi residents are divided on the establishment of a new community building.
“We don’t know what’s happening with it,” says attendee Tony Hutchison. “What was being proposed is a bit different from what’s there at the moment.”
Whether there will be a building or not, people at both meetings stressed the importance of green space for the park.
“Green space is precious in the urban core and Reid Park is a well-loved and well-used park, so it is vital that the redevelopment is done with care so that the park will be able to meet the growing needs of the community,” says Wright.
While new ideas such as gazebos and sound barriers were discussed, residents expressed their wish for the best things about the park to remain in place.
For instance, one of the Reid Park “rituals” as Petite puts it, is the daily draining of the wading pool so that the dogs can run around inside.
“What we’re hearing would stop us from doing that,” Hutchison says. “But, it’s an open space we can use.”
Meetings regarding formal proposals for the park are slated to take place in October with an end goal of setting a firm budget by Nov. 30.
We’d love to hear your feedback and ideas for Reid Park. Leave a comment below or send your email using the contact form on this page.