With a civic election pending, it is time to ask the question: What is important to the residents of Saskatoon? Clearly, parks are important as evidenced by public reaction to the possibility of loss of funding for the Meewasin Valley Authority (MVA.) But there is also the issue of the city’s park space and play areas.
The idea that the city would tear down the Kinsmen Play Village, a play area that accommodates children with physical challenges, is astounding. The question is why. The older areas of Saskatoon are already desperately short of park and playground spaces for children. And it makes no sense when you factor in the city’s growth plan to create high density residency through infill development in the City Park area. Add to that, the nearby YWCA’s daycare centre.
Of course the PotashCorp Playland is a nice addition to the city and we should be appreciative of PCS for their generosity in funding it. It is an amenity that families will occasionally take their children to as a treat. But is not a play space for youngsters to daily splash around in water, utilize play equipment and have a picnic lunch. Taking youngsters to a park play space to run around and interact with other kids is not the same as a mini amusement park, and not all families can afford to shell out money for rides. The children’s museum will eventually be located across the street from the PotashCorp Playland, but it too will demand an admission fee and it is not the type of facility that a family would patronize daily.
I will give kudos to Coun. Darren Hill for his 11th-hour rally to save the park, but I also ask the question: where was he when the plan to demolish the park was initiated?
Pitting communities against each other is a sad commentary on our council. The Caswell Hill community wants a similar play park for its kids and states it will serve several surrounding neighbourhoods as well. Those neighbourhoods are also short of green space and playgrounds. Why can’t the city just build a new play park at Ashworth Holmes Park to serve those neighbourhoods? City administration advises that building an accessible playground would cost about $500,000. Comparatively speaking, it sounds cheap when you think of council blithely throwing tens of millions of dollars at costly legacy projects that many residents in this city will not be able to afford to use.
As to the issue of the $10,000 contract awarded to demolish the Kinsmen Play Village, why doesn’t each councillor reduce their annual $10,000 communication allowance by $1,000 each to cover this folly?
We like to think of ourselves as a family-friendly city. We build recreational centres, but find out many in the community cannot afford to use them (which is why council reduced the user fees.) We have hockey rinks and soccer centres to serve those families that can afford to buy the equipment and pay registration fees. The big outdoor pools, such as Riversdale, also charge an admission fee. But also we have families who live on tight budgets and who are reliant on public parks and playgrounds for their children’s recreation.
The plan is to demolish Kinsmen Play Village and create cross-country ski trails. We already have cross-country ski trails, but you have to be able to afford the ski equipment to use them. If we need more trails, they should not come at the expense of children’s play space. The play area is used primarily in spring, summer and fall, and skiing is a winter activity. Is there a way to accommodate both activities?
Rich or poor, we all pay property taxes either by direct assessment or through rent. As a taxpayer, I pay to subsidize hockey rinks and soccer centres, which I don’t use. But I am happy to support these facilities, especially for youth. I don’t use the city’s indoor or outdoor pools, but I am OK with subsidizing these amenities for those who do.
I would like to see my tax dollars spent on parks (which I do use) and play spaces for kids. It is hard not to smile when you hear the laughter of children and watch their antics at play. The only complaint I have ever heard from taxpayers about parks and playgrounds is that they need to be better maintained.
If the cost of building and maintaining our public spaces is the concern, then council should stop giving tax holidays as incentives for corporations to build here. They will come anyway if there is a profit to be made. On the other hand, what family moving to this city doesn’t look for an area that has schools, parks and playgrounds in the neighbourhood?
If not this council, I hope our next council will consider the basic needs of everyday citizens and their families.