Published: November 22, 2017
BY JENNIFER PARSONS
McKenzie Island residents are no closer to finding out if their neighbourhood play structure will be replaced this spring after Councillors defeated a motion related to identifying capital funding, calling it redundant to the budgetary process.
At the Regular Council Meeting on Nov. 21, councillors reviewed a Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee recommendation related to the replacement of the playground equipment that is the oldest in the district, and is slated for removal due to safety reasons in the spring of 2018. The recommendation called for the inclusion of $60,000 for a replacement structure to be included in the new year budget.
Councillors, however, felt the recommendation circumvented the budgetary process with Sandy Middleton speaking out against the motion.
“For us to go ahead and pass this resolution what we are saying is our budget process doesn’t mean anything,” Middleton told those gathered.
McKenzie Island residents say they are disappointed an answer to whether or not the structure will be replaced has yet to be provided.
“The park on McKenzie Island is well used by Island kids as well as visitors,” Rebecca McCullough said late Monday night. “The loss of the existing play structure and the uncertainty around when (or if) it will be replaced is a big blow to the community.”
Teacher Margaret Cookson said the imminent removal of the structure is “disheartening”.
“As a teacher, I love seeing kids playing outside and being well, kids. Taking something like that away is completely disappointing and disheartening. I personally feel if this was the situation elsewhere in town it would be replaced.”
In a report to the Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee the island structure is identified as being more than 25 years old. The National Standards of Canada for play spaces and equipment note that structures installed prior to 1999 can remain and not meet current standards, however efforts must be made to ensure the equipment is safe for use. The recreation report says the equipment in question is made of treated lumber, which is beginning to rot, and provides no protective surfacing like sand or rubber under the structure.
“I understand the current fiscal restraints to replace, but I would hope removing the structure will not be entertained as it’s a place where kids including my own, play,” says Kent Fraser. “Many studies such as from the Lawson Foundation are suggesting kids benefit from riskier play. It’s part of being a kid, taking risks and learning from the outcome. Play equipment is an ideal place to learn these valuable skills. The equipment was safe enough for my kid to go down her first slide and swing on her first swing. I hope to see my kid and many others playing on the current structure this summer and many more till it is fiscally possible to replace. I sure the residents would even give it a new coat of paint and a facelift for many more summers of fun.”
During Monday’s meeting Chief Administrative Officer Mark Vermette confirmed the capital expenditure had been included in the draft budget for 2018. Approval of the document is not expected until the first quarter of the new year.