Originally published in the May 2017 OSCAR.
The first public consultation on Brewer Park’s renewal, which took place on March 23, 2017, demonstrated that the community truly cares about the park’s future. An overwhelming number of local residents turned out to the meeting, all eager to provide their feedback and input.
The meeting was an initial step that marked the start of a multi-year process of listening, planning, seeking funding and then implementing the re-development of the park.
To facilitate the community's engagement in the consultation process on display throughout the room were a series of large aerial maps indicating the various features and facilities currently in the park.
The maps, with the following headings: What Does Brewer Park Mean to You?, Improving What We Have, Facilities Quadrant, Playground Quadrant, River Quadrant and Sport Fields Quadrant, served as a guide for discussion. In turn residents either submitted their written comments to the project team based on the map headings or posted their suggestions directly on the maps.
After the meeting, The OSCAR contacted David Chernushenko, Councillor for Capital Ward, to learn about his impressions of the first meeting and to find out what the next steps in the public consultation process are.
What was the initial public meeting on Brewer Park’s future a success, or not a success?
There was clear enthusiasm for, and interest in, guiding the future plans for Brewer Park in both the local and City-wide communities. With over 150 completed feedback forms and hundreds of notes from participants, this was a highly successful start in what is to be a long and multi-stage process.
What were some of the main feedback/concerns that you heard from the community?
We heard a wide range of points of view ranging from “we need more greenspace” to “keep things exactly as they are” to all points in between. There were a number of special interest groups who expressed clear concerns regarding the future of hockey, speed skating and baseball, and others who were advocating for new elements, such as expert-level skateboarding facilities at Brewer Park.
One of the early themes that has emerged is the need to consolidate the aging facilities, provide better access via Bronson Avenue, and improve the “flow” of the western half of the park with fewer but more logical internal streets, and fewer parking lots in the various corners of the park (consolidation is favoured).
What did you think of the turnout and the community's engagement in the future of the park?
Turn-out was exceptional! With well over 150 engaged residents and many offers to volunteer on the project going forward, I anticipate enthusiastic and ongoing engagement from the local community and those further afield.
Was there anything that evening that stood out for you about the consultation process?
We’ll need to be sure to always have a big space available and a group of dedicated (and informed) volunteers to help guide the process, if the first turn-out is any indication of what we’ll see in the future!
Will the community be provided with a summary of the feedback from the March 23, 2017 public consultation?
The feedback summary should be available sometime in the next two or three months.
What’s next? When can the community expect future consultations?
As I foresee the next stages of consultation playing out over a long period (1 – 3 years), we will be staggering future sessions every 6 – 12 months or so, in order to allow us the opportunity to disseminate information, provide any updates and keep the process moving.
Consequently, the next session will likely not take place until sometime in the late fall of 2017, at the earliest. There is no “urgency” for any of the existing facilities other than the deteriorating pavilion next to the pond, and the skate change shack. Both are in poor condition, and I expect will be removed (the pavilion) or replaced within the coming couple of years.
Can you tell me about the $100,000 study regarding the long-term renewal of Brewer Park?
One of the major reasons to have an “open” initial consultation with the community was to help determine which park elements or general needs should be the focus of the study.
With the City set to conduct its own arena study over the next 18 months or so, we will want to coordinate those findings with the desired direction for Brewer Park so as to be clear on what role any arena buildings will play in the future of Brewer Park. This is a key initial piece of information, as any recommendation to expand and improve ice facilities at Brewer Park would dictate a very different direction than if it is recommended to not have an arena here.
I am on record (with the public and city staff) as being in favour of making Brewer Park a future centre of excellence for hockey, indoor and outdoor speed skating and ringette, and to consider making the required facilities a central focus around which any new pool, gymnasium or community facilities might be clustered. But I am trying to keep my biases out of the process at this stage. A genuine public consultation must allow for all views to be fairly considered in the early stages.