We are heartened at the news that the City of Port Alberni’s parks, recreation and heritage department is working on a master plan for parks in the city. First started in early 2020, right before the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, the plan has been on hold for a couple of years, but is now back in the forefront.
Parks are vital pieces in the fabric of a community, and several in Port Alberni are in serious need of mending.
The city hasn’t given much weight to the importance of parks and recreational spaces; witness recent closures and removal of play equipment.
Some parks have been side projects for city staff—Canal Waterfront Park, Millstone Park, even some of the expansion at Roger Creek Water Park. While it’s commendable that staff recognize the importance of developing these new spaces based on public interest, it’s not a sustainable way to build and maintain greenspace.
Some residents, tired of waiting for the city to act on their parks, have mounted their own fundraising campaigns to improve neighbourhood parks. A decade or so ago, parents living near Weaver Park approached the city about tidying up or replacing playground equipment because there were young children in the area.
One mother came to council to ask for Weaver Park to be made a priority. When she was shot down, told there wasn’t enough funding, she took action and raised tens of thousands of dollars in grants, cash and in-kind donations. Brand new equipment was installed in the park in less than a year.
Last year John Douglas, who has since been elected to city council, began a campaign to turn brownfield spaces in the city into something more than heaps of dirt imprisoned behind chain-link fences. He and former city councillor Ron Corbeil were busy last year transforming an empty lot at the corner of Redford Street and 10th Avenue into an area with grass, pathways and raised garden beds.
It’s a novel way to cover up brownfield areas without disturbing the soil. Douglas would like to see more brownfield sites converted in this manner as a way to beautify what are otherwise blights to the cityscape. The difference with Douglas’s campaign is the brownfield sites are privately owned.
Every time an issue comes up with a park, the public speaks up. Parks and recreational space are important to Port Alberni residents. It’s time for the city to make parks a priority.
— Alberni Valley News