Council hears the backlash over parkland

MORRISBURG – Backlash from the public following reports of South Dundas council discussing the sale of municipal lands, including some areas of waterfront parkland, was swift and significant.

The May 2nd council agenda package included a handful of letters from concerned residents and a petition signed by 190 people objecting to any proposal to sell off portions of Duncan Park or Loyalist Park.

Also included in the agenda package was a staff report summarizing discussions from the April 11th special meeting, where the potential sale of municipally owned lands, including some parkland, was discussed.

“I would like to strongly confirm that, to date, absolutely no decisions have been made,” said South Dundas mayor Evonne Delegarde in a prepared statement. “Any future decisions will be made following a complete investigation of property with a full staff report with options brought back to council for consideration. Some properties may remain status quo.”

“I have no flavour for disposing of parkland right now,” said South Dundas councillor Archie Mellan.

He suggested taking the parks “right off the table.”

Delegarde disagreed, suggesting that the research into covenants and other legal documentation should be pursued.

“I think it’s a worthwhile exercise. It’s good information to have,” she said.

Mellan, however, persisted asking, “Why waste staff’s time and effort?”

Councillor Marc St. Pierre agreed with the mayor, stating that the full reporting process should be pursued.

It would be nice to learn the histories of the properties, he said, and to find out if certain parks, like Steward Drive park, were part of subdivision agreements.

As for Duncan Park in Mariatown, St. Pierre had suggested a complete reversal of thinking on that park.

“I’ve learned that it was a community created park, and that it’s a well-used park,” he said. “Admittedly, especially on the west side of the park, I didn’t realize how well used it is.”

Further to the safety and longevity of that park, St. Pierre said, “I think we should look at enhancements, if it’s well used.”

That comment was followed by applause from the concerned residents in the audience.

“Let’s just take certain properties off the table,” said South Dundas deputy mayor Jim Locke.

“I agree with you, but we still need to do the studies,” said South Dundas councillor Bill Ewing. “We need to know the history. It will just come up again.”

The majority of council agreed to direct staff to proceed with the exploration of all of the municipally owned properties.

Those staff reports will provide options for council consideration.

“We have heard your voices about the parks,” Brenda Brunt, director of corporate services/clerk for South Dundas told council. “We will be delicate and sensitive to that.”

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