Another in a series of public consultations solicits neighbour input
BY GLORIA J. KATCH
Special to the VOICE
How the mind and body interact with their environment are reflected in the designs of Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds. With children in mind, Adam Bienenstock, founder and head designer, developed landscaping that contributes to “optimal child development and play,” he said last week. His company wants to apply this concept and a plethora of other ideas to meet the wide-ranging needs of the Pelham community, and include them in the Lookout and Weiland Heights Parks.
In a second information-gathering session at Fire Station No. 1 last Thursday, Bienenstock and his staff talked one-on-one with some 30 interested persons who dropped into the three-hour meeting to exchange and engage in the information presented. Anyone unable to make the meeting can still make suggestions online at: naturalplaygrounds.ca/Pelham until Feb. 28, said Jodi Hendriks, Culture and Community Enhancement Programmer.
One more public consultation session is scheduled for March 6, but that date may be subject to change. According to the Town’s current schedule, Bienenstock is scheduled to present its project to council on March 18 for approval, before it adds any finishing touches to the project’s plans.
After the final session is completed, Bienenstock and his staff of about 50 will devise a plan for the parks, said John El-Raheb, Director of Project Management. Many of this company’s parks have scenic topography adorned with wooden artifices, ponds, sandy areas and accessible paths. Art and nature blend together as large rocks and tree stumps dot the grounds for additional seating areas, which embellish the plush backdrop of trees and shrubs. The landscaping is designed for function, effectiveness and enjoyment, according the company’s promotional materials. The firm has designed spaces for the Ontario Science Centre, as well as many schools, recreational sites and businesses looking for an environmentally-friendly appeal.
“We have a cool mix of skills,” said El-Raheb of his Bienenstock team. Undaunted by doing two projects at once, Bienenstock’s staff is large enough and accustomed to handling many projects simultaneously, he said.
Jeff Lindstrom, Creative Director and Senior Designer, noted the last “jamming” session on November 17 resulted in some 120 people “sharing memories,” and there was extensive feedback on the park.
“We have people that have strong feelings coming into these spaces,” he said. “There are a lot of variables and so many ideas. At the end, you have a vision.”
In reference to the concept of children interacting with their environment, he said that kids, “consciously like challenges— ropes, towers and monkey bars.”
Lindstrom said the question of using green energy or solar power, “is often a part of the conversation.”
The comments given touched on every aspect of the park, and not just the “play elements,” he said. Just some of the suggestions included: plenty of shade, gathering areas like an open air pavilion or gazebo, climbing elements like ropes, monkey bars, towers and other wooden formations, swings, and ponds with frogs. In the winter, such a pond could be used for skating or sledding.
The park should be open in the middle, so almost any aspect of it can be seen. Parks in other areas are also used for outdoor movie theatre nights, pointed out Lindstrom. Entrances should be accessed from all points or streets. He also suggested planting “a memorial tree,” that acts as a landmark. Paths and walkways had to be accessible for persons in wheelchairs. Ward 3 Councillor Bob Hildebrandt added that ample park benches with arm rests are needed for seniors with mobility issues.
Lindstrom admits these two parks are large spaces to design, so parking, and how the park fits into the housing surrounding it, as well as construction and drainage are areas which have to be considered.
When asked about the size of the two parks, Bienenstock described it in football terms. He said Lookout Park, which is located behind the Fire Station No. 1, is about 30,000 square feet, like, “one football field, and there are four football fields on the edges that have to be for drainage.”
Located at the end of Marlene Stewart Drive, Weiland Heights is about “three-quarters of the size of one football field.”
To put sidewalks through both of these areas will be costly.
Lindstrom noted to successfully complete the park, “The responses have to be as diverse as the community.”
The park also has to be inclusive of all age groups. There are always challenges, and “we have to bring it down to scale,” he said.
Lindstrom suggested the park design include two phases in its development, in case all the items on the “wish lists” are not affordable now. However, when more funding becomes available down the road, the company will be able to add more aesthetics to the park, if space is allocated in the original drawings.
Bienenstock noted there is about $300,000 available to complete these two projects. Nick Lancione, a local resident, asked why all the money from the surrounding housing development wasn’t going towards these parks. Director of Recreation, Culture and Wellness Vickie vanRavenswaay explained that development charges are allocated into the Parks Reserve budget, which is used for all parks, and not just certain ones.
Another resident said he didn’t like the openness of the park, because strangers could wander in from Highway 20, which is a high traffic area.
Resident Vaughn Ridley suggested selling Weiland Heights Park to a developer, and then use that money to develop “one good park.”
“We can’t afford two parks,” he said.
Ridley said he has children who are nine and ten years old, and they want to have swings and other playground equipment.
El-Raheb couldn’t give the Voice a price tag on any specific items until the details of the plans have been prioritized. “Nothing is set in stone,” he said about the two areas designated for parkland, which are mainly empty fields with little or no trees.
vanRavenswaay described the parks as “a work in progress.” She isn’t aware of any additional grants that would cover the costs, although she has had offers from neighbours in the Lookout area to help fundraise money for the parks.
“We can give tax receipts for any donations,” she added.
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