Splash pad petition comes before Council
by Sandy Lindsay

October 12, 2016

Town Council

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A petition with more than 1,600 names of residents against a proposed location for the Port Elgin splash pad came before Council on Tuesday, October 11th (2016).

While the residents who signed the petition are not against a splash pad in Port Elgin, they are against the proposed location of North Shore Park on the shore of Lake Huron.

In the petition, it states that ...

"it is critical to future generations to have our community today absolutely protect the natural integrity and ecosystem stability of North Shore Park ....

For 110 years, the historic North Shore Park has provided passive recreational and relaxation opportunities for generations of locals and visitors. The quiet shaded space in the park is where people gather for family and community celebrations. It also provides a one-of-a-kind venue for a variety of fundraising events. The combination of both shaded and open passive green space within a public park in Saugeen Shores is rare and found in only two parks on our waterfront: North Shore Park in Port Elgin and the much smaller Pioneer Park near the mouth of the Saugeen River in Southampton."

Approval was given for the splash pad 'in principle' but it is not a final approval according to the CAO.

During the pre-meeting public speaking portion, Ed Shebrak expressed his disapproval of the location. "I use the park almost every day with my Great Dane and we just love it.  Throughout the time we've been going down there, we've seen continual deteriorating conditions, lack of maintenance, erosion caused by a storm sometime ago, tree stumps, etc.  I've attached the Works Manager several times just to get the lights cleaned, garbage picked up ... there are hornets, flies and junk all over the place.  At the end of summer, residents don't have any facilities left ... the washrooms are closed, garbage pickup is nil and there isn't even any place to put 'doggie poo' and the maintenance department answer is 'we don't have the staff'.  Right next to us is Lake Huron ... why deteriorate that with a water park right next to it.  There are better lands to put things like this on and that are more conducive for kids.  The park with its trees, serenity and benches is a quiet area where we do not need any more traffic problems,noise and it will ruin the total features of that park.  I strongly appeal to Council to have another look at that. Please reconsider.  Location of the pristine park is very dear and we need it as it is."

According to Mayor Mike Smith, Council has been listening and will be referring the matter back to staff for a report.

CAO Dave Smith said that staff had met with residents and that there were some concerns that have been addressed.  "Council and the community know that we are working on a Recreational Master Plan and pre-eminent consultants have been hired and the Plan is due imminently and within the plan it will be recommended where parks, ball diamonds, splash pads, etc. should be be placed.  We will take inputs and concerns expressed by residents before bring a final recommendation to Council ... the petition in fact supports many natural and normal park development processes that we follow anyway ... we would be happy to facilitate a public information session to have concerns heard and addressed and respectfully, it should be facilitated by the consultants or staff to present the rationale for whatever location is chosen."

According to the CAO, there is also much misinformation and confusion on the topic and that facts should be presented to the community so that they can make an informed decision.  "I think the community and Council deserves the opportunity to make an informed decision and that's our intent.  I would be pleased to facilitate a public information session so that the public can see the actual scale diagram, the location and mitigation plans."

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Councilor Neil Menage said that he sees a public meeting resulting in drifting into late November. ".. what I don't want to see happen is a delay in the decision making process that will require a potential interruption to a splash pad being built next year in Port Elgin ward.  If we are suggesting a different timeline, I would like to see it [splash pad] tied to the budget timeline ... also, we don't say yes to either splash pad [Southampton/Port Elgin] until we've had this open public meeting and make our final decision."

The CAO said that end date is that determined by the fundraising committee of July, 2017.  "We are moving ahead with the splash pad in Southampton and there is a lot of activity that continues.  The Master Plan will not impede having a splash pad operational in 2017."

Councilor Mike Myatt added that he agreed there was misinformation in the community about the location of the splash pad. 

Deputy Mayor Luke Charbonneau made a motion to refer the petition to staff for a report to be brought back to Council.

Council Menage came back asking that staff ensure that grant applications and a timeline be brought back.

Charbonneau wanted a defined plan be brought to the public based on the Recreation Master Plan and a final location.

The CAO said that staff does want feedback from the public around things such as parking.

Menage then question however, why there had to be a public meeting on the splash pad.

Mayor Smith replied that the "...public is entitled to have a say where this splash pad goes ... " at which point the capacity filled chamber broke into applause.

Myatt agreed that public input was a good thing and also expressed appreciation to the fundraising committee.

Dave Hornsby, a co-author of the petition said he could not understand why Council was "... pushing for this location.  This is a lot of money and a big expense.  This is a safety issue.  There is not enough parking and everyone who lives near the park knows this.  Money will have to be spent each year to take care of it so we have to be very careful and we shouldn't be rushing.  Also, I am insulted.  We have consistently acknowledged the fundraising committee and I find it insulting that they keep bringing this up.  This shouldn't be located near the lake where it's cooler and we'll use the splash pad less ... there are safety issues with a blind curve there, no sidewalks, the rail tracks are there on one side and the road on the other ... there's a stream that when we have rain floods and a splash pad is going to be placed where there are all those safety issues?  To me, it makes no sense why the location was chosen in the first place.  Plus there will be maintenance problems because of the cedar trees.  They are beautiful but they're dirty and there will constantly be drain problems and pump problems because of the cedar trees and dirt.  I would hope the Recreation Plan will recommend it be placed somewhere else ... the petition will continue on-line as long as this location is still on the agenda."

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Thursday, October 13, 2016