Wellesley needs a skate park, it needs a splash pad, and it needs facilities for its youth – on this everyone agrees. Where should these facilities be located? That’s a trickier question, one that Wellesley Township staff hoped to address at an open house on Wednesday aimed at justifying its decision to build a multi-use sports pad at the Wellesley Community Centre.
But the plan has proven controversial, with representatives from the Wellesley ABC Festival and the Wellesley-North Easthope Agricultural Society suggesting the proposed sports pad has grown too big.
Displays and diagrams at Wednesday’s open house at the Wellesley Community Centre outlined the history of the project, dating back to December 2008, as well as reasons that other areas were ruled out. Still, director of facilities Brad Voisin found himself hearing the same complaints.
“I’ve heard positive things. I’ve heard negative things. I’ve heard people say, ‘Can we gear it down? Can we make it smaller? Can we have a separate sports pad and separate skateboard park?’ I’ve heard suggestions of every other location that we’ve looked at, over and over and over,” said Voisin during the open house.
But Wellesley ABC Festival chair Bob Reid, who spoke out against the project at a recent township council meeting, remained unconvinced.
“You’re going to have little kids playing in the splash park, and you’re going to have teenagers playing on the skate park and the other facilities, and we all know the language that teenagers have nowadays.”
Reid added that the proposed design would create a visual eyesore, with the skate park and the splash pad taking up too much space, too close. “It’s going to infringe on the look of the splash park. You won’t be able to see it.”
Concerns had been raised that the sports pad would eliminate 54 parking spaces, but the township’s current design will restore 52 of them in different areas. However, Wellesley resident Dereck Brick feared that new spaces beside the parking lot’s west entrance, and alongside the south side of the building, would create a dangerously narrow thoroughfare for two lanes of traffic.
“That will never work according to code – that’s what worries me. This will never work, because you need your minimum turn radius for fire trucks,” said Brick.
The cultural differences between children at the splash pad and teenagers in the skate park also remained a persistent concern.
“It’s very realistic to assume that there is swearing,” said one concerned mother. “Toddlers and young children are very impressionable. … Beyond anything negative, even [skate] stunts that the kids are doing. I can see [my kids] jumping off the couch at home trying to do it.”
But Mayor Ross Kelterborn was not so concerned about a culture clash.
“There’s all kinds of different people, and that’s the way society is. It wouldn’t matter when you did something. If you had a conflict with something that little wee kids use and something that people of a higher age group use, there’s always that differential.”
Since its inception nearly four years ago, the skate park has come close to landing at several different locations. The Steckly property on Gerber Road and site of the new fire station on Queen’s Bush Road were ruled out for being too far from the centre of town. The Wellesley Library was also considered, but deemed too close to a residential area. In 2012, the sports pad was nearly built on Grand River Conservation Area land next to Wellesley pond, but this plan proved unpopular with nearby residents.
Construction at the Wellesley Community Centre looked good to go until October 29, when representatives of the Wellesley-North Easthope Fall Fair told council that they disapproved of the plan. Committee member Peter Brennan told council that the terms of the 1962 deed to the property, donated by the ag. society, specified that grantor and grantee must mutually agree on land use.
Wellesley councillors voted to take in suggestions via an open house, after which township staff would meet with stakeholders to hash out an agreement on where and when a sports pad can be implemented. No date for this meeting had been set.
For Brad Voisin, the community centre remains the most feasible choice. “It won’t bother neighbours, the space is there, and we can get the size we were looking for.”