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Some concerns addressed in skate park plan

With construction underway, the race is on to complete the new skateboard park in Elmira before winter settles in. That won’t mean work will be allowed through the weekends, however.

The construction schedule will conform to the township’s standard practice – Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., if necessary – councillors decided this week, turning down a request for an exemption to that policy.

Council also agreed to spend up to $5,000 to move the community garden from its existing location at Bristow Park to a new site at Victoria Glen, resolving any conflict with the new skateboard park.

Other conflicts might not be so easily remedied, including concerns raised in a petition by nearby residents.

Having met with a representative of the group, Glen Irvine, recreation and facilities director Karen Makela told councillors meeting Monday night that many of the issues have been addressed. There will be no lights on the site, for instance. As well, there is to be no excessive noise, with the facility operating on the same hours as other parks: closed between 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. No events or large gatherings are to be permitted without a special licence. No music is to be played.

Concerns about parking are likely unfounded, she said, with users expected to walk or skate to the park rather than drive.

“We don’t anticipate a need for additional parking.”

Nor will the site be supervised, though signs will be posted advising users about the rules and expected conduct.

There is no workaround, however, for the neighbourhood’s biggest concern: the facility’s proximity to nearby homes.

In an interview, Irvine said he’s visited half a dozen skateboard parks, with none being so close to residential homes. Without even the 15-metre buffer required for other operations on that stretch of First Street, the park could be a problem to those who live in the area.

He would have liked to have seen more done to reduce possible noise issues, but residents may be willing to give Woolwich the benefit of the doubt, at least for now.

“It’s discouraging, but I think that we have to give it a chance,” he said. “We want a successful installation in the neighbourhood, not one that’s a problem.

“It’s a worthy project in the wrong area.”

The skate park itself is a $500,000 project organized by a group of young people who formed Skate Elmira, fundraising under the auspices of the Woolwich Recreational Facilities Foundation (WRFF). More than three years in the making, the facility is now under construction.

Asked for an update by councillors, WRFF treasurer Ruby Weber noted the work is in its infancy.

“There’s a bit hole in the ground and there’s dirt all over the place. We’re in the very early stage of construction.”

She said the goal is to have the bulk of the work completed before the snow flies, which prompted her request for an exemption from the usual restrictions on construction times, in the end rejected by council.

The weather, more than work times, will be the deciding factor in how much work gets done before winter, argued Coun. Mark Bauman.

“I don’t think working on Sundays will make a difference if we have an inclement fall,” he said, arguing it would be “a slap in the face” to the neighbours if the township allowed work on Sundays.

“I think the residents of First Street have been surprisingly patient,” he added.

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