Request made of community still peeved at name change
BY VOICE STAFF
The District School Board of Niagara is requesting that the Town of Pelham cede a portion of Cherry Ridge Park for use as a soccer field to serve the students of the new Wellington Heights Public School, formerly the E. W. Farr Memorial Public School, in Fenwick.
Currently under renovation and expansion, the new school will combine students and staff from the previous school and Pelham Centre, where classes are being held while construction continues.
Two letters, containing virtually identical text but signed by different authorities, were sent last week to nearby residents of the park, as well as to parents of Pelham Centre students.
“The DSBN is currently building onto Wellington Heights Public School on Alsop Drive,” states the letter. “The size of the school’s addition means the existing small soccer field will be eliminated. The Town and the Board have been discussing the possibility of working together to create a field for both the school and the community.”
Largely unnoticed at the time, last June Pelham Town Council signed a memorandum of understanding with the DSBN to reach a joint agreement on use of Cherry Ridge Park by the school.
However, in the intervening months, tensions have run high between the DSBN and local residents opposed to the Board’s renaming of the E. W. Farr school.
The DSBN letters invite residents and parents to take a short, online survey that asks whether they support the park being used by the new school. Notably absent from the survey are questions relating to compensation.
When asked why only opinion from residents near the park was being solicited, rather than all Pelham residents, Mayor Augustyn said, “Because Cherry Ridge is a neighbourhood park and we ensured that residents of Cherry Ridge had a chance to be involved in the initial development of the Park in 2008….[All residents may comment] when Council considers the potential final agreement.”
DSBN Chair Dale Robinson did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Richard Rybiak, one of the ward’s two councillors, frames the issue as one that pertains to the best outcome for all residents.
“I will try to contribute to the best decision based on good evidence and argument for the benefit of Pelham residents. This is not about cooperation between Council and DSBN,” he said.
“When the draft proposal is presented, Council will need to see if the balance proposed makes sense. And for me, making sense includes how well the proposal takes into account the needs and concerns of residents as expressed in the current solicitation of resident opinions.”
When asked whether existing Centennial Park facilities—a short walk from the school—were not already sufficient to meet student soccer needs, Rybiak responded, “I believe that an adequate schoolyard is the best way of providing our children with secure access to outdoor activities. DSBN initiated the discussion of shared facilities because the schoolyard at E. W. Farr will be reduced by the renovation there. It would be best for the children if adequacy is restored to the schoolyard. My hope is that what is finally proposed will be an effective and acceptable agreement that solves this problem.”
Ward 1’s other councillor, Marv Junkin, views the issue from a wider perspective, taking into account the community’s frustration over the re-naming of E. W. Farr.
“While I am somewhat hesitant to comment on the situation until the final report comes before Council,” Junkin said, “I find it somewhat strange that an organization that has apparently caused so much ill-will in the community over the re-naming of a local school now has the audacity to ask this same community to share its park land.”
The Voice has posted a link to the DSBN’s survey on our website. In addition, we are conducting our own survey, with additional questions, which you may find at http://www.thevoiceofpelham.ca/cherry