Splash pad location approved despite community opposition 
by Sandy Lindsay

December 12, 2016

Town Council

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Despite a petition signed by more than 1,700 residents, many letters to media and delegations to Council, approval for the contentious location of the proposed Port Elgin splash pad was given at Monday night's Council meeting on December 12th (2016).

The splash pad will be located in the historic wooded North Shore Park on the Lake Huron shoreline and will be constructed in time for Canada's 150th birthday celebration.

As part of the process, the Town hired Todd Brown of Monteith Brown Consulting to assist staff in coordinating and delivering a Community Information session held at the PLEX on November 30th.  Brown also presented a report at Monday night's Council meeting recommending that North Shore Park be the site of choice for the splash pad.

"The park is tired," said Brown, "and this will bring some revitalization to it."

According to his report, there were 11 sites evaluated but only North Shore answered all the criteria required: space, washroom, off-street parking, access to a sidewalk or trail, access to water and 'estimated upgrade costs.

Many residents have expressed their displeasure over the choice of location and the issue has been a divisive wedge in the community. Among the concerns raised was the lack of parking and the fact it is a heavy traffic area during peak season.  In addition, there are few young families in the vicinity of the park and several locations closer to residential areas were suggested, with the most popular being Cameron Park.

When asked by Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber why there was no archaeological assessment being done, the Director of Community Services, Jayne Jagelewski, said that it was not required.

Huber also pointed out that, "In the Official Plan, it states that an Environmental Impact Study may be required ... and it talks about preserving the natural environment on the lake.  Why isn't that happening here?"

Saugeen Valley Conservation Authority (SVCA) has also given its approval to the project despite concerns raised by residents over the clear stream running through the park and that trees will be removed.

The splash pad will be approximately 2,432 sq. ft. (226 sq. metres) with two 7,500 litre tanks to be buried in order to collect water, at a cost of approximately $362,000. According to Jagelewski, the collected water will be used by the town for things such as plant watering.

Councilor John Rich said that he was uncomfortable with the entire process.  "This should be a feel-good thing that the community is happy about, and it isn't. There is something about the whole process that doesn't feel right.  We should have had more feedback or compromise."

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Despite all the concerns and unease expressed by Councilors, they still voted to approve the contentious location put forward by Town staff.

Councilor John Rich

Vice Deputy Mayor Diane Huber

Mayor Mike Smith

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Tuesday, December 13, 2016