A community consultation meeting on Cedarvale Park quickly turned emotional as some residents expressed opposition to approved infrastructure projects.
Ward 21 councillor Joe Mihevc held a meeting to receive community feedback and generate discussion on future park projects at Cedarvale.
The discussion surrounding the park focused primarily on four future proposals: the addition of a water play facility, improvements to the amenities at the off-leash dog park, pathway lighting on Ava Road to Glen Cedar Bridge, and improved pathway drainage for the soccer field and south of the tennis courts.
While the pathway drainage and lighting did not generate much discussion, the two other proposed improvements seemed to be thornier issues among residents.
One man who lives just across the street from the park, on 2 Durham Ave., strongly opposed the addition of the water play area, which is proposed near his home, at the northwest corner of the tennis courts.
“My knowledge from talking to the constituents that are on the park, most of the people that I know of do not want a water park right in our backyard,” said Howard Katzman.
The money for the water park is already included in the 2012 capital budget and will cost approximately $400,000.
A City of Toronto document from 1999 shows he has been looking into the addition of a water play area to Cedarvale Park for at least 12 years.
“This is not something that’s just come out of thin air,” Mihevc said. “It’s been talked about for a decade.”
The water play area would be similar to a splash pad or sprinkler system. The city is pulling out of wading pools because they require staff supervision whereas outdoor water play areas do not.
Katzman took issue with the fact that a water park would attract more vehicular traffic to the neighbourhood.
“You want to bring more people into the area?” he said. “That’s going to block my driveway and everything else, because there isn’t parking for them.”
But he also suggested the city shouldn’t be spending money on new water parks amid all the proposed cuts in the 2012 budget.
“I’d like to know why we can’t just take the money from the water parks, and use it … to keep flooding from going on, to lighting other places, things we really need,” he said. “Water parks we can use, but why don’t we wait until we have a better economy?”
One woman leaned forward while holding her baby to express her support for the project.
“I live just as close as you do, and I happen to agree with what’s going on,” she said.
Katzman’s voice got louder and more confrontational as he demanded Mihevc tell him how much power constituents actually have in deciding what happens in their backyards.
“You have power … obviously the people who live closer to the park are different kinds of stakeholders than people who live far from the park,” Mihevc replied.
He said the reason he held the meeting was to see where the community’s priorities are, and he sensed the water area needed further discussion.
“If you’re not agreeing with the water play facility, that’s fine, I respect that and I will find a way to work with that,” he said. “I will look at other voices as well, to see if it’s the right project and the right place.
“And if it isn’t, then we’ll either cancel the project and spend the money elsewhere, preferably in Ward 21, or we’ll move it. We can do that,” he added.
But Katzman believes this is just grandstanding.
“He made the decision already,” he insisted. “If you go out there, you’ll see.”
Katzman pointed to some landscaping work and the recent arrival of cherry blossom trees at the proposed location as evidence of this.
But Mihevc says those trees were donated by the Japanese consulate simply because when the previous tennis courts were moved over, they formed a small barren gully.
He reiterated that he’s willing to reconsider the location of the water play facility, but was not sure if it would change at this point.
“It can it be moved, yes, but I think when people look at all the real pragmatic possibilities, this is my best suggestion,” he said. “If there’s a better suggestion, I’m certainly open to it.”
Improvements to the amenities such as lighting and perimeter planting at the off-leash dog park generated further, but less passionate discussion, as residents such as Chris Chopik suggested that more money be spent enforcing bylaws in the current off-leash dog park area before anything else is done.
“I’ll say about any dollars that we as a community decide to invest in that park, if we’re investing in that infrastructure for those users, please dog owner community, demonstrate (respect),” he said. “That means less poo on my shoe and less dogs licking my three-year-old’s face unwanted.”
Mihevc said he plans on holding another meeting specifically in regard to the water play area in the near future.
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