Jennifer Cooney – August 9th 2016

Good Evening  Chair Lowry,  Mayor, councilors and staff, my name is Jennifer Cooney and I am here as chair of Holy Name of Mary Catholic School’s Parent Council representing our children, parents, staff and concerned community members.

The first thing that I ask each of you sitting in front of me to consider; if it were your child or grandchild being effected by the sale of land being used as a school yard and park  would it be you standing up here instead of me?? I would hope that most of you would say yes and mean it.

Your Master Recreation Plan uses the term “surplus” to describe some parcels of designated greenspace in Mississippi Mills. The definition of Surplus – a situation in which the quantity of a good or service supplied is more than the quantity demanded.   I fail to see how a parcel of land that has a variety of uses for the surrounding neighborhood on a daily basis falls into being referred to as surplus.  These properties Don Maynard Park and Block 42 are both used; our school children obviously use this space for play during the school year, they can find shade along the tree line that currently exists with beautiful mature trees in this corner. Children and neighbors alike both use the path that links the park to the school for safe travel. I speak for teachers that I know frequently use Don Maynard Park as an outdoor classroom space because of the unique little habitat that exists here, we have a variety of mature trees, we have wild life; an abundance of birds, chipmunks and even fox on occasion, and our Eco team at the school have been actively trying to fund-raise to establish a butterfly garden along the school side.

Every green and open space is a valuable resource to its surrounding community. Once gone we can’t get these lands back. Why not consider the possibilities that Don Maynard Park has to offer as a multigenerational use park with very little required further improving upon and maintaining. The demographics of the surrounding community are a mix of young and old. Why not offer space for community gardens to the organization of Red Tomato, there are presently other community groups planting and maintaining flower beds in this park. The park could easily be upgraded to accommodate a sun shelter with benches for seating for some quiet time by those out walking, or even still install a very simple bocce court or shuffle board pad to encourage another reason to visit the park. These are all simple suggestions that could be taken on by a community partnership with Holy Name of Mary School Council and perhaps the creation of a Park Pride group. I feel confident that students from our local ADHS high school where Don Maynard taught for years could use this park for community involvement in their civics and careers class as I know some did last year with the local beach.  A Park Pride committee could be established within our community in various neighborhoods to gather those interested in helping to maintain and make safe our recreation facilities. The public is interested why not involve them.

A sale of these properties with the possibility of more intense development on an already established and quiet street invites speculation from many that our town council doesn’t care what its residents are saying.  We voted you into those seats because when you campaigned several years ago we trusted you enough to make decisions for Mississippi Mills that we can all be proud of. The remaining time in those chairs will be long when each decision made is met with such public adversity that continually divides the sides between and creates an, us versus them mentality.

Please do not sit there and tell people that a school board should have purchased the parcel of Block 42. School boards spend money on education not on real estate!  Asking that any school board take money to purchase additional green-space for one out of many schools in their board is wrong. As reasonable parents we all agree that we want the money they receive from the provincial government to go towards helping our children get an education and learn to read, write and do their mathematics properly. God willing one day they will need to write speeches when they run for council and need to balance the budget to fund community projects.

Mr. Mayor and town councilors you should not be selling Don Maynard Park or any designated open space for that matter. It is simply not good planning practice. When I have respected members of community call me, former councilors and mayors call me and say “selling park-lands are wrong no matter whose name is on it, once a park it should remain a park for future generations.” And stating,”Please make them listen and change their minds”.

In closing I propose that you all consider some of the most valuable real estate in the world is Central Park in New York City, yet it still remains as a park. It provides green-space for people to recharge in an otherwise overwhelming urban environment. Mississippi Mills is not New York City, but if they have managed to keep development out of their park then why can’t you??

I know that there is a bigger picture to look at as far as development of recreation facilities in Mississippi Mills but I don’t feel that the majority here tonight wishes it to be done at the expense of other long already established green-spaces. Thank you for wishing to develop Gemmill Park into a wonderful facility for all but many feel there is also room for more public input on that project and no need to have it done all at the same time.

I respectfully ask that you listen to all the meaningful points put forward this evening and consider the impact the sale of Don Maynard Park and Block 42 would directly have on the 350 students at Holy Name of Mary School, the students at R. Tait McKenzie School and surrounding neighborhood.

Don Maynard taught some of you sitting in front of me and some of you have had children that have played over the years in the Holy Name of Mary School Yard. The fact that you are considering the sale of Don Maynard Park, someone that was so well respected in this community and who truly valued the recreation of children and community and lived it daily, is both disappointing and disrespectful. His family and former students have every right to be upset and angry. If you sell this then what park will you sell and rename next MacGregor Park beside us?

Thank you.

Written and Prepared by:

Jennifer Cooney

Holy Name of Mary Catholic School

Parent Council Chair

8/5/2016

 

Jennifer Cooney’s Daughter Samantha

Good Evening Mr. Mayor and Councilors my name is Samantha and I am a Grade 8 student at Holy Name of Mary Catholic School. I have been attending school at Holy Name since Junior Kindergarten and before that my older sister that is now 20 and my older brother who is now 16 went to Holy Name as well. Holy Name of Mary School means a lot to everyone in my family. We all have memories that have been made while playing on our school grounds. We have always had lots of room to play, a snow hill to slide on and an outdoor classroom that our teachers take us to next door in Don Maynard Park beside our school yard.

It would be very sad to think that my younger cousins and their friends would not have the same amount of space to play like I did because someone decided it is okay to build houses on part of our school yard.

We have play structures in our yard, but sometimes we just need to run around and blow off steam in the yard, or find a quiet corner in the shade to chat with friends. You may not see it but we use this space ALL the time. Lots of my friends that walk to school come in from Gale Street because it is a safe way to get to school. The street in front of our school, Patterson Street is very busy and very scary sometimes especially for the younger kids.

We need to keep the park beside our school, not put more houses. No one really likes to play beside the houses because sometimes balls go over the fences and the people that live there are not always happy with us.

Please don’t sell the Park or our School Yard all the kids at my school love that space.

Thank you.