SCUGOG: At the eleventh hour, and after more than five years of dedicated fundraising, the Caesarea Skateboard Park (CSP) project came under fire during a public meeting, held on Thursday, Feb. 26, at the Caesarea Community Hall.
Over 35 local residents attended the meeting to offer their thoughts and comments on the location and design of the proposed recreational facility - which is slated for Putsey Park, at the corner of Pier St. and Cedar Grove Dr. in Caesarea.
Ward 4 Councillor Wilma Wotten and Scugog Mayor Tom Rowett organized the public meeting at the request of their Caesarea constituents, in the hopes of updating members of council on the grievances and concerns which face some nearby homeowners, as well as the work of long-time supporters and fundraisers of the project.
Councillor Wotten opened the meeting by providing her constituents with some background on the current issues, stating “The process started in August of 2010, when former-mayor Marilyn Pearce received a request from Susie Bollon for the Township’s partnership and funding for a skateboard park in Putsey Park,”
A survey of Caesarea residents was carried out in 2011, which saw a majority of area-residents in support of the skateboard park and its proposed location. However, in January of 2015, an additional survey was presented to Council, detailing that more than 97 people did not agree with the placement of the 30 foot by 15 foot footprint.
More than 15 members of the general public offered their opinions, taking issue with the topics of noise, traffic concerns, parking spaces, the potential draw of illegal activity, and the close proximity of the children’s parkette to the skateboard ramps.
A major topic of concern for some neighbours adjacent to Putsey Park was that the development could attract vandalism, drug use, and noise during early morning hours.
One resident, Bill Sanderson, asked the Township delegates who he would call if there were troublemakers near his home at 4 a.m., and who would deal with the issues of liability, property damage and graffiti at the park.
Carla Frew, a supporter of the CSP and fellow volunteer, rebuttled her neighbours complaints about local youth - stating that much of the fundraising work has been carried out by local youth.
“When kids are bored and treated like children, they let loose and act out,” said Ms. Frew. “I’ve approached teenagers who littered, and I asked them politely to clean up - and they left the park cleaner than they found it. We’re just trying to give our children something positive and healthy to do - Caesarea doesn’t have many options.”
Several residents claimed that the CSP, as well as the multiple cars parked near it, would be an ‘eyesore’ in the main four corners of Caesarea - while supporters rebutted that a new recreation area would bring life to the quiet burg.
Melinda, a young woman who has spent time working towards the CSP’s fundraising goals explained that the space would provide teenagers with a place to spend time, and help to reduce their frustrations of boredom.
“Caesarea is very mini-mal as it is, and I was one of those bored teenagers,” said Melinda. “We would all like peace and quiet - but wouldn’t you rather the kids focus their time on something productive?”
Glen Smith, Director of Public Works and Parks for the Township, took the meeting as a chance to respond to the concerns presented by the residents.
“We could definitely place a moratorium on how late the skate park is open, and maintenance would be carried out by the Township - with, we hope, some support from the youth who use the ramps,” said Mr. Smith. “Some may call a skateboard park unsightly, but to a 15-year-old youth, it’s nirvana.”
Mr. Smith also detailed his methods of dealing with the graffiti and vandalism of skateboard parks in his previous line of work, in Fort McMurray, Alberta. “Many municipalities will hold a street art contest, and channel the vandalism into the creation of street art - I’ve seen some beautiful and detailed pieces created with spray paint, which have been left un-touched by other taggers.”
Alternate locations were proposed, such as in the field behind the Caesarea Fire Hall, and in Peace Park further west on Cedar Grove Dr. After being considered by township staff, the fire hall location was rejected as being too isolated and too close to the emergency equipment within the hall, as well as potentially blocking emergency drive-ways, and the Peace Park location was discovered to be protected by legislature and environmental considerations.
Mayor Rowett suggested that he has been in talks with a local farmer and land owner, considering that a portion of land could be sold or donated for the purpose of the CSP - but noted that it is all in preliminary stages.
Councillor Wotten ex-plained that the original surveys showed a majority support for the CSP, and that the Township wasn’t aware that the public did not support the project until just a couple of months ago.
“If the location is changed now, it could seriously upset the Trillium funding which the CSP and the Township has already received,” said Councillor Wotten. “As well, it could hurt Scugog Township’s chances of ever receiving money from the Trillium Foundation again.”
The Township of Scugog representatives at the meeting noted that construction crews are expected to break ground when the frost breaks this spring, with an estimated completion date of later this year.
It is expected that further consultation with the CSP and neighbouring residents will be carried out, and brought back to Council in the spring.