Save our parks: community members oppose town decision

Joe McWilliams
Lakeside Leader

A revived ‘Save Our Parks Committee’ from a neighbourhood in southeast Slave Lake was out in full force at town council’s Sept. 4 meeting. Its message: ‘Don’t close Maple Crescent Park!’

The tot lot in question is one of two small playgrounds the town has decided to close, as not being in line with its strategy of investing in larger ‘quadrant’ parks. Maple Crescent – located on 8th St. SE – was slated to be closed in 2008, but a community group made a deal with the town, raised $80,000 (for it and one other neighbourhood park) and saved it. Ten years later, it is in need of further upgrades and the town has decided it’s not worth it.

Byron Kashuba – back as the SOPC spokesperson – told council his group is willing to roll up its sleeves, raise the money, do the work and bring the playground up to code.

“It’s minor stuff,” he said.

Kashuba went on to say the effort to rally support in the community is well underway, with 97 of 140 residences already signed up.

Mayor Tyler Warman assured the group that council is in no way “on a mission to close parks.” On the other hand, council has to justify the decisions it makes, and with a limited amount of money to spend on parks and playgrounds, the focus on the bigger parks makes sense. Given that Maple Crescent is only a block or so away from another playground, justifying expense on it is not so easy. Granted, said Kashuba, but the group is willing to raise the money and do the work.

“We are prepared to do what’s needed. Once they’re gone, they will never come back.”

Councillor Shawn Gramlich asked: “If it’s way more than you are expecting, are you prepared to go that far?”

“We did it last time,” said Kashuba.

Estimates on the upgrade run as high as $30,000.

Warman reminded the group that accessibility is becoming an issue with regard to parks, as well as new, safer surfaces, such as rubber. Neither comes cheap. Resurfacing Schurter Park, for example, cost around $100,000.

“My vote is to spend money on quadrant parks,” Warman said.

At that, councillor Darin Busk said, “Maybe we don’t have to have all the parks wheelchair accessible.”

Council did not vote on the issue.

“Give us some time,” Warman said. “We should take a serious look at it.”

In the meantime, Kashuba said he’d like to meet with the playground inspector to go over the details of what the park needs to bring it up to code.

The matter will be back before council at some future date.

Maple Crescent Park, on 8th St. SE in Slave Lake, is slated for closure – again – and a commuinity effort to save it is underway.

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