An ice-skating trail proposal is kicking up opposition and a sense of deja vu among south Etobicoke residents who opposed a similar recreational development plan for a lakefront park only two years ago.
The negative response - and some positive - were aired at a community consultation meeting last week, where city staff presented plans for a $1.9 million project that would see a 250-metre concrete-based ice skating trail built in Colonel Sam Smith Park.
The proposal comes two years after the city and Ward 6 (Etobicoke-Lakeshore) Councillor Mark Grimes abandoned a similar plan to build a concrete skateboard park in the same park. Residents argued to preserve the park's natural state and protect wildlife habitat and Ward 38 (Scarborough-Centre) Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker wrote a report advising against the plan, after he was brought in to evaluate the skateboarding pad proposal.
He also suggested striking a citizen's advisory group to help manage the park's development in a way that restores the park to its "full ecological potential". His recommendation echoed a promise made to the community by the City of Etobicoke in the 1996 Master Plan. No such group has been created, despite a willingness from community members to participate in one.
Years later, another plan to bring concrete-based recreation to the park is on the table and relations between the active community groups and the city remain tense. Though he said he's open to the idea of a community advisory group, Councillor Grimes also said he isn't interested in forming one with a group he considers to be "politically active". (i.e Friends of Sam Smith Park)
However, on an issue as contentious as this, community interests need to be represented or else any plans to develop the park will surely share a fate similar to that of the skateboarding pad proposal.
An open dialogue may also help satisfy questions regarding estimated operating costs and the city's reasons for pushing through the ice-skating trail proposal at a time when the city is cutting back on recreational costs by closing school pools and more ice surface is being built only blocks away at the site of the new Lakeshore Lions hockey arena, set to open fall 2009.
In his report A Place for Nature, a Place for Youth, Councillor De Baeremaeker wrote that there was "an opportunity to right past wrongs and to move forward in partnership with the local community and finally deliver what residents were promised for this park some ten years ago."
If the city is serious about this latest proposal and the community is determined to do what's best for Colonel Sam Smith Park, then both groups need to take a lesson from the past, put politics aside, and engage one another in an honest and helpful dialogue.
Etobicoke Guardian linkhttp://www.insidetoronto.com/news/etobicoke/editorial/article/49760?thePub=etobicoke