Paul Cliffen – August 9th 2016

Presentation to the Mayor, Councilors and Staff

Mississippi Mills Council Chamber

August 9, 2016

Good evening Mayor, Councilors and Staff.  Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight. My name is Paul Cliffen and I reside at 69 Harold Street, Almonte. My wife and I have lived here for 14 years. While we may be relative newcomers, we have been here long enough to know the pride that all residents have for their town and its parks and open spaces.

We have heard tonight from many concerned residents about the proposal to have Don Maynard Park declared surplus, put up for sale and rezoned for residential development, along with Block 42 in the Holy Name of Mary school grounds. In fact, the sheer number of people who have come here tonight in opposition is testimony to the depth of concern shared by so many.

I would like to ask Council to defer any final decision on this issue and grant sufficient time to allow for consideration of alternate sources of funding for the proposed enhancements to Gemmill Park. We absolutely must ensure that all possible alternatives are fully explored before proceeding to destroy a park that has been a source of pride in our neighbourhood for many, many years. A park that has been used by residents, their children, and their grandchildren.

One such alternative could be using a portion of the undeveloped parkland located on Martin Street North. That undeveloped parkland covers 15.5 acres, according to the Parks and Recreation Master Plan Draft Final Report prepared by Stantec, dated October 8, 2013. Don Maynard Park and Block 42 in the school yard together total approximately 2 acres. Rezoning and selling approximately 2 acres of the undeveloped Martin Street North parkland would only represent a reduction of about 13%, leaving almost 90% of that park (13.5 acres) intact for future use as a park. Information obtained from the Land Registry Office (copy attached) shows that the land now designated as the Martin Street North Park was originally transferred to the Town of Almonte in 1884! Over 130 years! That is certainly a very long time period with no development by the Town.

The rationale stated in the Stantec Report on page 76 for declaring Don Maynard Park as surplus is that it “is adjacent to Holy Name of Mary elementary school site that has a developed playground including a play structure.” So What! The school year is ten months of the year. The school operates Monday to Friday, except for holidays. The school does not want members of the public, or their children on the playground when school is in session unless they are students or parents of students. The school has posted signs on its fenced entry points that state “Private Property – No Trespassing”. Just what are you asking neighbourhood parents to do? Wait to take your kids to the playground during evenings or on weekends only? In July and August only? Ignore posted signs for No Trespassing? And what kind of message is that giving to our kids and grandkids? It’s OK to ignore Private Property signs!?

Council – I would rather see no parkland declared surplus and sold. But if you must, then first sell some of the undeveloped parkland on Martin Street North. However, there must be other alternatives! Challenge your Planning Department to find creative solutions using other Town-owned properties that are vacant. Do not destroy Parks that have existed for years!

Thank you.

Paul Cliffen

69 Harold Street