Scott Newton – August 9th 2016

Good evening Your Worship, Council, Madame CAO and Staff. I’m speaking to you this evening as someone who was born and raised here, who works here, and is raising a family here, because I love this town. My wife and I are raising three girls, who are either attending Holy Name of Mary School, or will be in the near future. Last night I decided to write down my thoughts on the issue and I’ve chosen to speak here tonight because I trust that you, the members of Mississippi Mills Council are approaching this meeting with your minds open, and that what we the taxpayers and users of these park/green spaces have to say will be strongly considered when decision time comes. You have a tough job to do… listening to the people and really valuing their input is a big part of it.

Park space and green space should not be sold, particularly in established areas. Once it’s gone, and the space is infilled with a bunch of homes, there’s no getting it back. Mississippi Mills own Community Profile on the town website includes this: “Quality of Life – Parks — The Town of Mississippi Mills recognizes that parks and recreation are essential components of the community’s livability. Mississippi Mills is fortunate to have a long history of investment in parks and recreation and its numerous community and neighbor parks are a testament to this commitment.”

Neighbourhood parks are valuable… extremely valuable, not from a dollars and cents perspective, but from a quality of life perspective.

Mississippi Mills (and in particular Almonte) has a great number of parks, and that’s part of what makes it so amazing. We shouldn’t be so eager to rid ourselves of part of what makes this community so great.

The green space or park space that is referred to as block 42, is probably the most used park/green space in Mississippi Mills. It’s used by hundreds of children five days a week, for 10 months of the year. That area makes up about one third of the grass space in the school yard and is used by the grades one through three. My daughter who is going into grade 2 says she loves looking for interesting rocks and cool bugs in the tree line that separates Don Maynard Park and Block 42. It’s a unique part of the school yard. She was upset when I told her of the proposal to sell it and building houses there. It’s also used by neighbours and other children throughout the year after school hours and during the summer months. Please don’t just think of it as the Catholic School Board using the Town’s land. If you only take one thing from what I say tonight, I hope it’s this: BLOCK 42 IS USED BY HUNDREDS OF RESIDENTS OF MISSISSIPPI MILLS, FIVE DAYS A WEEK, DURING THE WINTER, SPRING AND FALL. THAT LIKELY MAKES IT THE MOST USED PARK/GREEN SPACE IN ALL OF MISSISSIPPI MILLS. How can selling this space be justified?

Don Maynard Park was designed as quiet, serene green space for the betterment and enjoyment of the neighbourhood. It was not designed for formal activities. There are no play structures or benches, or walking paths, etc. Despite that it can’t be said that it’s not used. It is often used by those who enjoy tending to the flower gardens, by neighbours who enjoy the serenity of the space, and by teachers and students from HNOM as a quiet place to read, learn, and explore. With modest investment, and community support it can enhanced for additional uses. Garden plots via the Neighbourhood Tomato (like Augusta Street Park) would be a great addition for the neighbours and the school, who could use them as a teaching tool. Who wouldn’t love having their kids learning about growing their own food while at school? That could be amazing!

Selling this neighbourhood park and well-used green space would provide a one-time payout and a modest property tax base increase going forward. It would also create a troubling precedent (other neighbourhoods will wonder about their parks), permanently decrease the size of the school yard (taking away about one third of the grass space where the kids play), negatively impact the students, staff and parents of the school, and decrease the overall quality of the Gale subdivision neighbourhood. The school and the area neighbourhoods are growing, the sale of these lots would only exacerbate the parking issues at the school and the traffic problems on Paterson and Ottawa streets. If you’ve been in that area between 8:50 and 9:10, you will know what a nightmare the traffic situation is.

My family likely qualifies as the target market for the Gemmill Park redevelopment plans (we have 3 young kids). We would love to see Gemmill Park improved. A splash pad would be great, but not at the expense of other park/green space. We would much rather see the plan scaled back a bit and slowed down… done in phases over time, if that meant that no park/green space would be sold. When you rush, particularly with projects of this size, scope and impact, you often end up with regrets. Please, please don’t rush this.

Finally, if we can take a positive from this, this issue has really gotten a lot of neighbours talking and involved. I really feel as though, if Council can make the right decision and keep these parks/green spaces, neighbourhood residents will be inspired and motivated to work with the Town and each other to improve the neighbourhood parks all over town and make better use of them.

This is a huge decision with large and lasting consequences. Please listen and make the right decision. Do not sell. Thank you.

Scott Newton