By Jacob Hoytema –
Citizens from across Kitchissippi converged at the Van Lang field house to share their ideas on how to improve the ward’s parks on November 25.
The gathering was the first of three consultations organized by Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper to help facilitate discussion regarding several hundred thousand dollars’ worth of cash-in-lieu money that has been earmarked to improve the ward’s parks and green spaces. As councillor, Jeff technically has the discretion to choose himself how the funds are spent but says he wants input from residents on at least part of the spending.
There is currently about $600,000 of cash-in-lieu money to be spent, a number that is expected to continue to grow in the coming months.
In addition to the proposals which may come out of the consultations, Jeff has already settled on a couple of projects to pursue with the funds: a new field house in Laroche Park similar to the one on Van Lang Private, as well as joining Champlain Park with the nearby NCC park.
Although attendees put forward dozens of suggestions at the event — more dog parks, better lighting or access for seniors, new community gardens and cleaning up Westboro Beach, to name a few — no specific ideas were formally decided upon at the gathering as this was only the first of three consultations. Now that round one is complete, Jeff and event facilitator Wesley Petite will take some of the suggestions and discuss them with city officials to assess viability. Round two will begin with more specific discussion of the most popular or viable ideas.
Lorrie Marlow of the Mechanicsville Community Association was an attendee of the event. She was pleased that residents are being included in the conversation.
“I was, to begin with, extremely excited to be consulted on this process before any decisions were made. That’s huge for me,” says Lorrie. “It’s frustrating to see money spent suddenly in your neighbourhood or in a neighbouring neighbourhood and never understanding the reasoning for it.”
She intends to be present at each round of the consultation to advocate for renovating Laroche Park when its current storm sewer is replaced in 2018 so the area doesn’t have to be disturbed more than once.
After the event came to a close, Jeff said he was pleased with the diversity of communities that were represented by the attendees.
“One of the challenges in Kitchissippi ward has been a history of neighbourhoods looking at each other and saying, ‘They got something I didn’t,’” says Jeff. “And what I was really pleased with today was the degree to which people from different neighbourhoods were coming in with a generosity of spirit with respect to what other neighbourhoods needed.”
Jeff adds that the recent approval of the Sir John Carling site for a new hospital could signal a time of growth for the ward and he wants to make sure that green space is protected to ensure balance.
“The need to have quiet spaces in light of that intensification was really striking to me,” he says.
Wesley Petite, the event’s facilitator, has worked with Jeff on similar consultations before, including the Reid Park redesign and the Rosemount Library reconstruction. Wesley, who is currently a political science PhD student at Carleton University, says he came up with this model of community consultation from his master’s work studying participatory budgeting in places such as Hamilton or Brazil.
The remaining consultations will take place on January 26 at the Churchill Seniors’ Centre at 6:30 p.m. and January 28 at the Tom Brown Arena at 1 p.m. The two sessions will be identical, so interested residents only need to attend one.
Residents are encouraged submit their feedback online via this survey if they can’t make it out to either remaining consultation.
More information can be found at kitchissippiward.ca.