Office of Councillor Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi Ward, Ottawa | (613) 580-2485  |
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Reid Park update

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For several months, I and community leaders have been grappling with what to do with Reid Park in the Civic Hospital area, and the funding set aside for it. Today, I’d like to invite your feedback on how we move forward to ensure the biggest bang for our buck.

As many of you know, there is significant money set aside for the improvement of Reid Park, allocated from our ward’s cash-in-lieu-of-parkland envelope. Roughly speaking, there is about $1 million earmarked for the park. While it sounds like a lot, park improvements are expensive and this funding won’t do everything the community is hoping for.  

The proposal on my desk when I took office was to build a new field house. The funding in the kitty was intended to build a community space that would be big enough to accommodate community meetings, as well as recreational and social programming. However, the project is over-budget and staff have worked hard to scrounge more money from leftover parks funds and to re-design a smaller field house that could be accomplished with the envelope we have.  A second phase, with very uncertain timing, would see significant landscaping and connectivity improvements – also at significant expense.

My view, shared by community leaders with whom I’ve spoken, is that the smaller field house isn’t well-suited to providing the programming and meeting space people are hoping for.  I’ve also heard from residents that a field house may not be the top priority for the community with respect to a rejuvenated park. Rather, the outdoor amenity space, which is well-used, might be more important to address.  

Based on all of these concerns, I’ve put the field house proposal on pause.  In its current form,  the project represents a very large expense that will likely please no one, and I’m loathe to spend that large a sum of money to no one’s real benefit.  It’s important to know that my commitment is to spend the money allocated to Reid Park on Reid Park. That money is isolated from our general ward park fund, and it is entirely at the ward councillor’s discretion as to how it’s spent and not subject to raiding. So the question is, what's the right way to proceed?

As we review our options, it is important to know that outside of the funding currently set aside for Reid Park, the ward park fund is currently virtually empty. I have used the available funds in it to re-start a project that was on pause to build a much-needed field house at the Van Lang site that was also promised to the community, and for which we will need to cover a shortfall by paying back a funding partner. It will likely be a few years before we have a large surplus in the account.

Looking across the next four years, we do not have any reliable projections about how quickly the fund will grow other than a general confidence that there will be additional money for parks flowing into our coffers.  My two big-ticket priorities for any future park funds include Reid Park and Laroche Park. I would also like to make smaller investments in all our parks to spruce them up, as funding allows.

So where do we go from here? I see several options, and there are likely several besides:

  • Do we wait for potentially two or three years until there is enough in the kitty to build a larger and more functional field house?
  • Do we wait until there is enough money in our ward fund to accomplish an even larger project to both build a new field house and do a major re-landscaping, with uncertain timing?  Could we work with the lawn bowling club to do something collaboratively?
  • Do we allocate the funds available now, to implement the landscaping and equipment improvements we can currently afford and tackle any residual landscaping and the field house when funds are available?
  • Do we allocate the current funds towards a more significant landscaping re-design and wait until the funds needed to fully implement are available?

This post is just the beginning of a conversation about the long-term future of Reid Park. There are no quick decisions that need to be taken, and I’d like to be comfortable that I’ve heard from lots of residents before deciding how to proceed.   Please let me know what you think.   As I obtain more precise information about such things as projections for parks fund growth, how much a larger field house or overhaul of the park will cost, etc., I’ll share that. But I wanted to let people know now what I’m thinking – people have been asking about progress to date.  

Next Wednesday, the Civic Hospital Neighbourhood Association will host its annual spring meeting, from 7-9 at the Hintonburg Community Centre. I’d love to hear your views then, and through the course of this summer.

Posted May 26, 2015