Gerry Belisle comments on Don Maynard Park issue

In defense of the memory of Don Maynard “A Good Man”

“A man who has given greatly to local parks and recreation programs has been immortalized forever in the community,” (Source: ALMONTE GAZETTE, AUGUST 26, 2003)

Mayor RON PETTEM added at the official Dedication Ceremony held on August 17, 2003:

“Don, we are grateful to you as a community for all you have contributed to our recreation programs and facilities. Your dedication and vision will continue to enhance the lives of the residents of Mississippi Mills now, and for many generations.” (SOURCE: ALMONTE GAZETTE August 26, 2003)

One would think and hope that the preceding congratulatory words directed to DON MAYNARD, and the citizens of Mississippi Mills on the occasion of a dedication ceremony by MAYOR RON PETTEM, would be remembered and emblazoned on the minds of all, including the minds of Mayor McLaughlin, Councillors John Edwards, Jill McCubbin, Val Wilkinson, Christa Lowry, Denzil Ferguson and Amanda Pulkerr-Mok.

What part of “immortalized forever” and “for many generations” do these members of Council not understand? The citizens of Mississippi Mills get it, yet they (the 7 members of Council) think it’s only for 13 years!

For the benefit of new and longer residents, let us take a few moments to review the highlights of this distinguished citizen’s illustrious career and some of his achievements,

  • Don graduated from the University of Toronto with a degree in physical and health education, and a teaching degree from the Ontario College of Education.
  • Don Maynard first visited Almonte on his honeymoon, during which time he learned of a teaching vacancy at the Almonte and District High School. He applied for the position and was hired.
  • Don was a tireless teacher and coach at the Almonte and District High School for 33 years.
  • Don and his wife Tressa raised 6 children in Almonte.
  • Don was a very popular teacher, devoted to student recreation and physical fitness in both the school and in the community.
  • Don was responsible for initiating a tot program and participated in negotiating a reciprocal use agreement with the school board.
  • Don was founder of the Almonte Track and Field Club.
  • Don was an active member of the Fish and Game Club.
  • Don was a member of the Building Committee for the Almonte Arena.
  • Don was an energetic member of the fund raising team for the construction of the gymnasium at the Almonte and District High School.
  • Don volunteered and served on the Town’s Parks and Recreation Committee for 22 years.
  • He was a swim instructor and lifeguard at the beach for several years.
  • Don was instrumental in the development of Gemmill Park.
  • Don was heavily involved in coaching and instrumental in the organization of the minor hockey league in Almonte.

To sum up, Don was a consummate volunteer in Almonte with a vision for recreational facilities and programs for the youth of the Town.

Let us set aside for the moment this citizen’s illustrious and humble career, as well as the memorable dedication ceremony of August 17, 2003 while we briefly review actual statements made by an aspiring mayoralty candidate and six aspiring councillor candidates.

1) Candidate SHAUN MCLAUGHLIN (For Mayor)

“The community views are my views”

“Over the last four years, I have learned that many of the best ideas do not come from Town Hall, they come from you.

(My quote “REALLY?”)

2) Candidate JOHN EDWARDS (for Councillor in Ramsay Ward)

“My passion is knitting the community together”

“…. it’s about their (the residents) issues, and I am their voice”

(My quote “REALLY?”)

3) Candidate JILL MCCUBBIN (for Councillor – Almonte Ward)

“Part of what’s wrong with the current council is that some members think they know best…”

“…we can all contribute to making the best decisions.

(My quote “REALLY?”)

4) Candidate VAL WILKINSON (for Councillor – Ramsay Ward)

“I am proud to represent rural residents whose taxes help support a vibrant town centre and whose wishes must be respected”

(My quote “REALLY?”)

5) Candidate Christa Lowry (for Councillor – Ramsay Ward)

“…wants to work on transparency and communication”

“… will improve communication between Council and residents to ensure that the people’s voice is heard and given a meaningful way to participate in decision-making and government policy”

(My quote “REALLY?”

6) Candidate Denzil Ferguson (for Councillor – Pakenham Ward)

“I have a desire to serve the people”

“I am eager to serve them”

(My quote “REALLY?”)

7) Candidate AMANDA PULKER-MOK (Appointed Councillor in 2016)

“I have a passion for the community”

“Listening, working hard and making my voice heard”

(My quote “REALLY?’)

What is the common thread in all of these promises? Are they sincere people, or is it just puffery? I conclude that all of them profess to want to listen to their constituents and that they want to be their constituents’ voices on Council. Then tell me, why have you not respected the wishes of 1300 citizens who signed a petition against the sale of DON MAYNARD PARK? Also does the historical turnout of 347 citizens against the sale of DON MAYNARD PARK on August 9, 2016 not compel you to respect the promises made around election time in 2014?

There seems to be only one reason for the denial of so many citizens’ wishes and that is to maintain support for the recommendations of CAO Diane Smithson, and the consultant to Council to sell DON MAYNARD PARK and adjacent Block 42. Councillor Edwards seems to be leading this group of seven against the peacefully demonstrated wishes of so many of the residents in Mississippi Mills.

Why not set pride and devotion aside and recognize that a mistake in judgement has been made and reverse your audacious and disrespectful motion of Council. Never in my 21 years in rural municipal politics have I encountered such a galvanized opposition to a decision of Council. Even a novice to the study of ethics and morality would understand why a “dedicated park” should never even be threatened by a potential sale initiated by a municipal council. To do so is not only disrespectful of the dedication process and commemorative actions of a previous council, think of the crushing disappointment for the Maynard children and their descendants. The whole situation is further compounded, when you overlay the pledge of the Mayor and the pledges of six other Councillors to the electorate at election time in 2014, over their actions, decisions and voting in 2016 with respect to Don Maynard Park and Block 42.

As alluded to by my colleague Brian Gallagher last week, it’s this type of demagoguery and arrogance in history that gave birth to revolutions and wars. However, we are a peaceful citizenry and will still hold out hope that our wishes will ultimately prevail given that there were1300+ signatories to a petition received by Council, coupled with the historical and peaceful demonstration by 347 citizens at the August 9, 2016 special meeting with Council during which they expressed their opposition to the sale of DON MAYNARD PARK and the adjacent Block 42 park.

You can rest assured that if there were a dedicated park in Pakenham and the citizens were opposed to Council’s decision to sell it to the highest bidder, Mayor McLaughlin, and Councillor Ferguson would be respecting the wishes of the citizens of Pakenham, contrary to their voting on an Almonte issue!

PRATAC is presently working in tandem with Steve Maynard with respect to alternative proposals of financing which could source the funds being sought by Council in selling Don Maynard Park and Block 42. These proposals when finalized, will be submitted to Council for its consideration and would obviate the need for the anticipated sales.

Kudos extended to Councillors Paul Watters, Jane Torrance, Duncan Abbott and Alex Gillis for respecting the wishes of a compelling number of electors by voting against the sale of the Don Maynard Park and Block 42.

Gerry Belisle

Vice President

Pakenham, Ramsay, Almonte Taxpayers Action Committee (PRATAC)

(With thanks for inspiration from Brian Gallagher and some research from Jan Maydan.)