City Spikes Springhurst Park Sports Facilities to 2021

ALEXANDRA GRUCA-MACAULAY

A highly anticipated beach volleyball court, ping-pong table, exercise equipment and basketball court bench that had been scheduled for August 2020 installation at Springhurst Park have all been deferred by the city until 2021, as has been the replacement of the youth playground. According to Councillor Shawn Menard’s office, the funds that had been earmarked for Springhurst Park were delayed because of COVID-19 budgetary constraints. Once again Old Ottawa East (OOE) is left waiting for a much-needed expansion of its community accessible recreation infrastructure.

As reported in the June 2019 issue of The Mainstreeter, (http://www.mainstreeter.ca/index.php/2019/06/08/bold-vision-forspringhurst-park-community-supportsought/)Vision Springhurst, headed by OOE resident, Rick Burrowes, had long championed a number of active recreation improvements at Springhurst Park. In the face of growing pressure for community accessible recreation facilities in OOE and Springhurst Park in particular, the need for these projects was readily recognized.

Much-needed recreation facility additions and improvements at Springhurst have been "parked" by the City until 2021 owing to COVID-19 budgetary constraints.

Much-needed recreation facility additions and improvements at Springhurst have been “parked” by the City until 2021 owing to COVID-19 budgetary constraints. Photo by Rick Burrowes

The park is located near the Lees LRT station, the highest density area of OOE, and one where density will only intensify through anticipated new development. The heavy use of the basketball court by youth and young adults attested to the enthusiasm for new additions that would help the park become a vibrant community recreation hub.

In order to help make the vision a reality, Sandy Hill Community Health Services (SHCHS) stepped up to fund a portion of the project and was awarded a matching minor capital grant from the City, and also, the Old Ottawa East Community Association (OOECA) approved a further donation. Initially, the organizations hoped these funds would suffice to build the new infrastructure, however, it became clear that additional monies would be needed when the City pegged the estimated total cost of the projects at $95K. As a result, OOECA requested cash-in-lieu of parkland (CiLP) funds from the City and, in January 2020, Councillor Menard’s office confirmed that CiLP would be allocated toward the Springhurst amenities.

While funding was being finalized, community members, the Councillor’s office and the City spent months discussing, and at times debating, the City’s choice and placement of equipment. Each component came with its own challenges: the City’s initial pick of ping-pong table was not wheelchair accessible and was prone to winter damage; questions were raised as to why the City required an expensive drainage system for a sand-filled volleyball court; and early site designs had the ping-pong table located in a breezy unsheltered section of the park.

During the protracted discussions – and in a surprise move – the City offered to fund the projects in their entirety from its Strategic Initiative Funds. As a result, the initial funding package that included the SHCHS and OOECA grant monies, and that was sitting at the ready, was unwound. Ultimately, with the City’s funding in place, and with helpful liaison support from the Councillor’s office that helped to allay community concerns over equipment and their placement, a procurement list and design was given the stamp of approval by all the parties. However, as the summer progressed, messages from the Councillor’s office began to raise worries that the City was looking to defer the Springhurst project until 2021 due to budgetary constraints related to COVID-19.

Then, in late August, Councillor Menard advised OOECA that the City had redirected the funds intended for Springhurst – curiously now being represented as unused “splash pad” funds – towards other funding priorities. The Councillor’s office has subsequently indicated that financing for the projects will revert to CiLP funding and that these funds will cover the project’s total cost.

OOECA and community members expressed dismay at seeing the recreation projects postponed at a time when outdoor facilities are in such high demand. They have asked that the tender package be released in 2020 so that installation could begin at the earliest possible date in 2021. It is noteworthy that CiLP funds are generated by development projects, yet despite OOE’s significant growth and rapid development, the community has received less than 10% of CiLP funds spent on various ward projects since 2010.

“Our office is working to ensure that the Springhurst Park Playground and the smaller recreation projects are a priority for 2021 after being delayed because of COVID-19 budget challenges. We are committed to funding the recreation projects in full and look forward to these becoming a reality after being proposed by the community. This is an area that needs more recreation options, and we will push the City to get it done,” Councillor Menard told The Mainstreeter. In the meantime, ‘Vision Springhurst’ has been sidelined once again and awaits the starter’s whistle.

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