ARKELL – An approved redesign of Boreham Park in Arkell has some residents feeling left as they weren’t aware of any public engagement before it was too late.
Bruce Taylor and Marny Mason, members of the Concerned Citizens of Puslinch, stressed they are pro-park and want to see improvements to the local neighbourhood park tucked away in a corner on the street they live on. That’s why they’re holding a neighbourhood meeting in September to gather ideas about how to improve the park.
Both said they were surprised when they saw council had approved a redesign to cost around $200,000 and to apply for an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant to cover up to $150,000 of that cost.
The existing park is not much more than a small playground surrounded by three ditches and a basketball court. The redesign is focused on the playground area which will make it accessible and include a pathway, new equipment, tree plantings, shade structure, benches and picnic tables.
Taylor said seeing this approval in the newspaper was the first he had heard about this and that there was any engagement opportunity at all.
“It caught us all by surprise, I asked people around the neighbourhood ‘did you receive any invitation for input into improvements to the park?” Taylor said.
He said he found one person from Boreham Drive who submitted input to Engage Puslinch, a site Taylor hadn’t heard of.
Mason noted residents of nearby developments are given a heads up that development is happening through the mail and questioned why something like that couldn’t be done, for example a note included with a tax bill or a posting on the community mailbox.
“It would be so easy to put a note in there saying we are considering making changes to your park, we have an opportunity for you to submit online feedback,” Mason said.
Puslinch CAO Glenn Schwendinger said via email public engagement on this was considered successful.
He explained the township ran a young playground planners project where citizens could submit their ideas on Engage Puslinch.
“With respect to analytics of this specific engagement, during this time we had 119 visits to engagepuslinch.ca and we had 23 unique ideas put forward and 68 votes towards the various ideas,” Schwendinger said.
The CAO also pointed out this would have been discussed at council meetings and the recreation advisory committee which are open to the public with agendas available online.
Taylor said he doesn’t believe council meetings are an effective way to engage with residents.
“With all due respect, most of us live pretty busy lives and we don’t listen to council meetings, at least not on a regular basis,” Taylor said.
Taylor and Mason both said they continue to have some concerns over things such as parking, natural shade and potential drainage or safety issues due to the large ditches that surround the playground.
Therefore, the Concerned Citizens of Puslinch are holding a neighbourhood meeting at Boreham Park on Sept. 11 at 7 p.m. to bring up issues and present ideas for the park. The mayor and all councillors have also been invited.
“We’re not against improving the park .. but the neighbours would like another opportunity to give their input,” Mason said.
Schwendinger said in his email this design is pretty much set considering the approved design was used for a funding application for the Trillium grant and straying would potentially risk $150,000 which would need to be made up from other sources including tax revenue.
That said, there is potential to add features to the park in the future.
“The process to do this, like any other project at any facility, would be to put together a proposal, options, cost estimates and funding solutions (including grants, donations, etc.) for council to consider during the annual corporate budget preparation process,” Schwendinger said.