Optimism was running high a year and a half ago when Woolwich council reversed course on selling parkland in Breslau.
Opponents of the plan who had come out in droves to public meetings spoke about rallying the community to pitch in time and money for needed improvements to Breslau Memorial Park without the $1.75 million offered up to make room for a new school there.
Forego the money, keep the parkland, and rely on the community to raise the money itself, in partnership with the township, they told councillors, who opted out of the deal.
In the intervening time since council’s change of heart in January 2016, however, little has been done. Only now, in fact, have the various community factions even agreed to a general plan for upgrades to the park. The money needed for the work is still a long way off.
Thus far, changes have been limited to undertakings by the township itself, most notably in the removal of an unsafe play structure. Woolwich plans to build a new one later this year using money from its own budget.
The plan, newly agreed on, calls for many more improvements to a park that certainly needs them. Poorly laid out due to expansion over the years, a reboot would help.
The cornerstone of new additions to the park is a proposed splash pad. In keeping with similar projects – largely in Elmira, a lingering sore spot in Breslau – the community itself, spearheaded by the Lions Club, is responsible for raising the money to pay for that feature.
Other improvements – moving the tennis courts, sprucing up the soccer pitches and dealing with troublesome parking among them – will also have to wait until both fundraising levels and township budgets allow.
This will mean both improved relations between Woolwich administrators and the community – already on the upswing – and among various Breslau groups and residents. The former was a stumbling block earlier on, especially as village residents felt the sale of land to the Waterloo Catholic District School Board was a fait accompli, but the situation has improved. An agreement on a design plan for the park would indicate the latter – some internal issues – are also being resolved.
Still, there are no shortcuts. Upgrades to the park are going to take time and money. Money is a particular sticking point, as the community has to raise much more, and the township will have to find room in future budgets beyond the $35,000 set aside for the unsafe playground equipment this year.
There was considerable determination early last year, but that appears to have lost momentum early on. What was true then is still true today, however: the pledge to come together and raise money for the park has to be followed through to completion.
The only way things get done is by the community leading the way. A big fundraising effort will be needed to upgrade what everyone acknowledges as a rundown park. The township, too, will have to act, setting its own financial plan for contributing to maintenance and upgrades at the site. Both parties will have to sit down cooperatively, trying to put aside past grievances. As Ward 3 councillors Murray Martin and Larry Shantz have noted, there’s been progress on that front.
Time now for all parties to get rowing in the same direction, to take what is now simply a sketch and turn it into a reality for Breslau residents.