A number of Rockingham residents want to protect a cluster of trees from the municipal chainsaw.
“We’re not opposed to change, we just want consultation,” said Renee Field, who lives on Nightingale Drive, just south of where the clump of trees at the edge of Tremont Plateau Park have been tagged for the chopping block.
The park encompasses a baseball field, a soccer field and tennis and basketball courts, along with a walking trail and ample space for adults, children and their canine companions to gather. But the ball field is small and the city’s plan is to make it a locked-fence regulation field by extending the outfield fence six metres toward Trailwood Place.
The cluster of trees, including majestic white pines, stand in the way.
“We are in favour of making the fields better,” said Gail Stacey, who lives in the area. “There was no community engagement. This is a community park, used heavily by the community. We were told there is a future opportunity to talk about dog parks and washrooms but that this had already been decided, it was a done deal.”
Field wondered how it could become a done deal without consulting residents.
“My understanding is that if you are making major changes to a park you have to have community meetings and that was certainly not the case here,” Field said.
Maggie-Jane Spray, a spokeswoman for the municipality, said the 2019-20 capital budget included funds to rehabilitate the ball field.
“This work includes extending the fence line by 20 feet, new dugouts, new backstop bleachers and a vehicle service gate,” she said. “Existing walkways will be retained with minor realignments. These changes will make this field a Bantam-sized field and therefore be able to be used by a broader group.”
Spray said many of the groups that book the field have asked for the upgrade to allow for more access.
“As part of removing the fence, there are a few trees that will be removed. There is a gravel parking lot that is being removed, which is being converted to a more desirable greenspace.”
Washrooms will not be added to the field, she said, but residents can call 311 in the spring to request a portable toilet on site.
Lighting for the field has not yet been approved, she said.
“Generally, the public would not be consulted on municipal asset improvements, such as sports field or ball field rehabilitation,” Spray said.
Russell Walker, the veteran city councillor for the area, said consultation with residents has never been the practice in plans to revamp municipal parks.
“In all of my time, I don’t know where there’s been consultation about parkland, about what trees stay and what trees don’t stay,” Walker said.
He said the municipality is closing some fields and upgrading others.
“This didn’t go through council. It’s a parks and recreation project.”
Stacey said she and another concerned resident met earlier this week with municipal staffers Alana Tapper, superintendent of Parks West, and engineer Alex Quinn.
“We raised our concerns about the loss of space,” Stacey said. “This is a community park, not just a sports field.”
She said the addition of lights that could stay on as late as 11 p.m., for evening games, would have a definite impact on neighbourhood residents.
The plan in place was to cut the trees this week.
Meanwhile, a new neighbourhood with 3,000 additional residents is under construction near the park, north of the Tremont Drive cul-de-sac.
“If we are talking about another 3,000 people using this park, it seems a sad time to reduce the amount of space that they have to enjoy,” Stacey said.
Field, a self-confessed tree-hugger, said trees should be preserved, not cut down.
“We’re fighting for our trees,” she said. “We keep losing them in hurricanes. Why are you taking more?”
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