On November 26, 2019, OSCA hosted a public meeting at the Firehall seeking residents’ views on the future of the fieldhouse at Windsor Park. The meeting was attended by about 30 people including our Councillor, Shawn Menard.
OSCA Board members Michael Jenkin and Luc Pellerin launched a presentation that displayed vividly the fieldhouse’s current dilapidated state, and estimated the potential costs of a renovation and a rebuild. Two flipcharts invited participants’ suggestions for the structural changes, as well as new or enhanced programming in the Park. Each participant was handed six sticky ‘dots’ to then vote for their preferred options in each category, three for facilities (or structures), and three for programming.
Form follows function
The meeting was lively and animated to the end, with participants expressing passionate views on the future of the park. And there was much dissatisfaction with the current state. Several residents of Belmont Avenue, whose homes run along the northern edge of the park described how the absence of accessible facilities in the park forces children (and grown-ups too) to request use of their washrooms. Sometimes park users relieve themselves in residents’ backyards that adjoin the park. Accessible washrooms were identified as the single most important need for the planned renovation. Accessible change-rooms were a close second.
Participants suggested any redesign of the fieldhouse should follow the principle of “form follows function,” a suggestion that freed everyone to first imagine the kinds of programming and activities they want the park to accommodate, in turn allowing those ideas to determine the structures and facilities that should be built. Prominent programming ideas, both indoor and outdoor, included kids’ camps, adult fitness programs, and some sort of food service or catering capability. Correspondingly the ideas for facilities attracting the most dots (votes) included: a kitchen/canteen, a stage for performances, a gazebo, picnic tables, an outdoor brick oven, and a dog washing station. Solar panels were suggested, both to keep costs down and to reduce the new structure’s carbon footprint.
The ideas collected at this meeting matched closely the results of OSCA’s online survey that ran for two months starting in October, and sought residents’ views on the state of the fieldhouse. That survey, completed by over 50 people, similarly demonstrated Old Ottawa South residents want a larger and more useable fieldhouse to support multiple outdoor and indoor activities. Programming activities were very similar to those proposed at the public meeting. Unsurprisingly, given the dilapidated character of the current fieldhouse, there was virtually no support to renovate the existing facility; rather people wanted to see a new purpose-built facility, as expressed at the public meeting.
The meeting also highlighted a need to reach out to the broader community of Windsor Park users. The park attracts day-care providers, wading pool users, dog walkers, river users, children’s play area users, skaters and hockey players, and those who play soccer, basketball, and tennis. The Board will reach out for their views on renewal of the park.
The presentation estimated that a rebuild for a 2,000 sq. ft. structure would cost around $880,000 not counting interior furnishings or the additional costs the City imposes, in the form of permits and other regulatory requirements. This would clearly need a major OSCA fund-raising effort in addition to a grant from the City.
Because of the importance of additional consultation with groups of users, OSCA will miss the application deadline for City’s 50-50 Major Capital Asset program (which is at the end of March 2020). The application would instead be filed in 2021; meanwhile OSCA will continue to listen to residents and seek the next available funding window from the City for this ambitious and much-needed project.
An ad-hoc committee established by the OSCA Board to review options for the fieldhouse at Windsor Park will integrate the results of this meeting, the online survey, and other submissions by residents into a report to the OSCA Board at its January meeting with recommendations that will help move this issue forward. We’ve learned that residents are passionate about their park, we’ve heard inspiring ideas on what could be packed into it; and we really want to get this right!
Shehryar Sarwar is a longtime resident of OOS and an OSCA Board member.
Originally published in the January 2020 OSCAR.