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Letters to the EditorSteve Maynard follows up on parks issue

Steve Maynard follows up on parks issue

Friends of Don Maynard Park and Block 42, The Town’s Parks, and Me

I am hoping that this summarizes a few things without being inflammatory.

The Friends of Maynard Park and Block 42 is a group of hundreds of people including children, youth, parents and grandparents who disagree with the proposal to sell parkland and open space in Mississippi Mills.

Mississippi Mills is relying on the 2013 Parks and Recreation Master Plan prepared by Stantec to declare Don Maynard Park, Block 42 and eventually Munro Meadows Park to be surplus, and to develop Gemmill Park. Much of the Plan is based on the results of a survey Stantec conducted. The survey was not easily available to all residents of Mississippi Mills, particularly people who don’t use the Internet and who don’t drive. Based on its request “Provide the Address of Your Home in Mississippi Mills”, the survey only received approximately 200 responses from Mississippi Mills residents. 81% of these responses were from Almonte which skews the results in favour of facilities being located in Almonte rather than throughout Mississippi Mills as they should be.

Stantec’s reasoning for declaring Don Maynard Park as being surplus to the Town’s needs is that it is “adjacent to Holy Name of Mary elementary school site that has a developed playground including a play structure”. This suggests that parks are only for kids when in fact they should be developed for every age group. An odd argument is also given for declaring Munro Meadows Park surplus “(It) is not required for neighbourhood park purposes. For example, all of the lots in the subdivision are of a size that a play structure could easily be located on them without the need to use public land”.

The Mississippi Mills Community Official Plan is a legal document containing the goals, objectives and policies which guide the development, growth and change of the Town of Mississippi Mills. Section 3.7.9 (1) establishes “Development Standards for Parks” that must be followed. These are very specific and not optional. The section states:

“The development of new parks or significant changes to existing parks shall be carried out through a three-stage process.

The first stage shall involve public consultation on the function of the park, needs of the anticipated uses and specific features or characteristics valued by the residents.

The second phase shall include the development of a general concept plan and cost estimate, prepared by a recreation planner or landscape architect, in conjunction with interested members of the public.

The final stage shall include a detailed site development plan and the implementation and phasing of the park plan. ”

The Gemmill Park Project has not followed this process.

There is no accurate idea of what the Gemmill Park Project is going to cost. The items and figures presented during the August 9 Public Meeting are vastly different than the March 7, 2016 Class D Estimate prepared by Lashley & Associates. One problem with the figures is that no allowance has been made for services from Bridge Street to the tennis courts. Clean water has to be pumped in and waste water has to be pumped out. This servicing will be expensive just as any water and sewer servicing is.

Mayor McLaughlin has said “I agree that the Gemmill Park upgrade is a boondoggle.” A boondoggle is defined as “an expensive and wasteful project usually paid for with public money”. He will be proven correct if the project goes forward without the planning required by the Community Official Plan.

The Gemmill Park project creates two environmental concerns that need to be properly addressed. The butternut tree grows in the Park. It is an endangered species and there are guidelines in place to protect it. And according to the “Ontario Recovery Strategy Series” published by the Ministry of Natural Resources, the Rapids Clubtail Dragonfly’s “habitat should include the section of the river containing the rapids, the pools below the rapids, plus the wooded shores on either side, extending inland to include any forest which is within 800 metres of the shoreline.” Roughly half of Gemmill Park, including the areas where the project is planned, is within 800 metres of the shoreline and is forested.

Finally, I am passionate to a fault about saving Don Maynard Park and Block 42. Don Maynard was my dad. I and hundreds of his friends, peers and former students feel strongly that it is disrespectful to my dad’s memory to take away a park dedicated to him while he was alive. I apologize that I more often than not come across as being rough and aggressive and I am trying to learn to count to 10 instead of 1 before I speak or post in social media. I just loved my dad a lot and want to protect his memory, and I don’t like when I perceive an abuse of power.

As a result of tremendous public interest in the issue, the Municipality of Mississippi Mills has extended the comment period regarding selling Don Maynard Park and Block 42, and the Gemmill Park Development until August 31.

Please let the Mayor and Councillors know how you feel about selling parkland and the Gemmill park development. Comments can be submitted by e-mail to the Clerk’s Office at town@mississippimills.ca or delivered/mailed to the Municipal Office at 3131 Old Perth Road, Almonte, ON K0A 1A0.

Please also email me at millsparks@bell.net with any questions or comments, or to offer your support.

Respectfully submitted,

Steve Maynard

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