Plan to renew our aging parks and rec infrastructure

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Like the last election I’ve made 30 promises this campaign, progressive ideas that focus on our neighbourhood priorities, supports stronger communities, and builds a better HRM. This is a detail policy blog that outlines three of those promises.

District 7 parks and rec facilities are wonderful, but aging. After years of neglect we are bringing them back.

When people think of the peninsula and parks, they focus on big regional parks like the Common and Point Pleasant Park. While residents enjoy these spaces, we need to continue to focus on smaller neighbourhood parks, playgrounds and infrastructure. We must make sure they serve residents of all ages, abilities and incomes.

District 7 is the oldest settled part of the municipality. Residents enjoy more than 250 years of investment in parks and public spaces. Many of the spaces we love have not seen major improvements since Canada’s Centennial, around 50 years ago. Maintenance and enhancement slowed to a trickle at amalgamation, though it has improved these last few years.

One of my priorities since the election has been to make sure the city put enough money into maintaining our existing spaces. We’ve all seen the results all around the region. Pocket parks like Queen and Green, Inglis and Balcom are seeing investment and care, from tree trimming to new benches, to new picnic tables and signs. Gorsebrook Park has been painted, the soccer field restored, the path system improved. Cornwallis Park has had the first of two new playsets and landscaping installed. HRM will install a second playset and swings this fall.

Most importantly to me – we’ve been taking care of the playgrounds and recreation spaces at our schools. We spent $120,000 at Saint Mary’s School on a playground and outdoor play area, new signage, landscaping and community gardens. Gorsebrook and Halifax Central both recieved garden, gym and public space improvements. Le Marchant has funds set aside for playgrounds and a much larger gym for recreation after the new school opens. I’ve worked since June with city staff and the Inglis parents to expedite a project to introduce accessible features to their playground by September.

Working with parents, teachers, students and the community to identify opportunities to restore and improve these spaces has been one of the most rewarding parts of being a councillor!

I want to build on these successes and make it easier to bring in partners to improve this infrastructure. Recreational sports organizations like Halifax Minor Baseball, Halifax Hurricanes Basketball, Halifax Ultimate and many others want to help fundraise for and maintain our facilities. Community groups like PUGS and Fusion Halifax want to operate or adopt gardens, parks and fields.

There is a huge opportunity to build a stronger and more engaged community by embracing these kind of partnerships. We should also work to complete the Citadel Rec space while formalizing our relationships with the university recreation facilities and especially with the new YMCA. The Y will become one of the municipality’s most important ways to deliver recreation. We want to make sure it is an integrated part of our recreation program.

I promised to stop the slow decline of these facilities. We’ve seen a lot change these last four years. We need to continue to increase reinvestment in existing parks and recreation spaces. We must bring our fields and passive recreation areas up to a higher standard, and make sure we have the right playgrounds in the right places. We must continue to protect and improve what we already enjoy

Finally, I often hear from parents frustrated that recreation programs are full moments after they are posted, especially summer camp programs. I understand that frustration. As a parent, I struggled to find quality, safe space for my kids when they were younger. HRM has to work hard to deliver more summer programming. We need to embrace a modern version of the decades-old “Red Box” program that used to happen at local schools. We need to work hard to provide more summer camps. I know we can do better.

Commitments: 

  1. Increase reinvestment in existing parks and recreation spaces to protect and improve what we already enjoy.
  2. Make it easier to formalize relationships with delivery partners to help deliver programming or improve facilities.
  3. Expand after-school, March break and summer programming, increasing the amount of programming to meet the demand.
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