A patch of sand can be seen on Woodland Crescent in Port Alberni where a playground was once located. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

A patch of sand can be seen on Woodland Crescent in Port Alberni where a playground was once located. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)

Westporte residents in Port Alberni concerned by park closures

City doesn’t seem to be keeping up with asset management of its playgrounds, says resident

Some Port Alberni residents are concerned after yet another city-owned park has been closed to the public due to safety concerns.

A small playground along Woodland Crescent in the Westporte neighbourhood was closed and fenced off at the end of 2022. The play equipment has now been removed. Parks, recreation and heritage director Willa Thorpe explained that this was closed due to safety concerns after a routine inspection.

The Westporte neighbourhood previously had two parks. The South Park was demolished to accommodate expansion of Rainbow Gardens back in 2016, and although plans for the new development included a replacement park—with a playground and pickleball courts—this has not materialized.

During a Monday, Jan. 9 meeting of city council, Westporte resident Cathy Casey wrote a letter to council expressing concern about the loss of both parks. Mayor Sharie Minions pointed out on Monday that the neighbourhood has actually lost three different playgrounds in the last few years: both north and south Westporte Parks and the River Road Park.

“I think Rainbow Gardens is a piece of that, for sure,” she said. “But there’s probably a bigger conversation around park replacement in that neighbourhood.”

Back in 2020, the city removed play structures at three of its parks—11th Avenue Park, River Road Park and Kiwanis Park—for safety reasons. At the time, Thorpe said that the structures were “decades and decades old” and needed to be replaced.

The structures still have not been replaced.

READ MORE: Play structures removed from three Port Alberni parks

Randy Fraser, a Westporte resident and a former city employee, says he is concerned about the city not keeping up with maintenance of its existing infrastructure.

“The condition is just continually declining and they’re not keeping up,” he explained.

The parks are just one piece of this, said Fraser. The city’s ball fields are also in need of repairs for an upcoming national event, and Fraser has written to the city on more than one occasion about the state of the walking surface along the Kitsuksis Dyke. He worries that the city is prioritizing new projects instead of maintaining the old ones.

READ MORE: City of Port Alberni ponders user fees for fields

“The existing assets we have are being neglected,” he said. “They need to be prioritized before they move onto new things.”

Thorpe says that the city follows national playground safety specifications, with monthly inspections of city-owned parks and more thorough annual inspections. The city has started work on a master parks plan, but this won’t be finished until after the city completes its updated Official Community Plan (OCP), which is expected to come out later this year.

The parks plan will come “on the heels” of the updated OCP, said Thorpe. This master plan will look at the condition of all the parks in the city, from green spaces to playgrounds, and come up with a maintenance timeline for all of them.

“We want to be forward-thinking when it comes to our parks,” said Thorpe. “Rather than working on one-off replacements, we want to do what’s best for the whole community.”



elena.rardon@albernivalleynews.com

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