BY VOICE STAFF
Council received a petition from residents of the Cherry Ridge neighbourhood in Fenwick at their meeting on Monday, March 6, voicing their opposition to the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) entered into between the Town and the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN). The petition listed several concerns with the DSBN’s proposal to construct a soccer pitch for E.W. Farr Memorial Public School (soon to be renamed Wellington Heights) students on a large portion of the publicly-owned Cherry Ridge Park.
Petitioners identified the consultation process initiated by the DSBN and the Town through an online survey as “seriously flawed.” Deficiencies with the survey, per the petition, include: Inadequate questions, suspect timing (released months after the MOU was signed) and the absence of an opportunity for residents to comment on the proposal. It also pointed out that many of the residents of the Cherry Ridge subdivision are seniors and/or retirees who travel south during the winter, so they would not likely be aware of the survey or the proposal. The fact that several old growth and newly planted trees would have to be cut down and removed also raises environmental concerns among the petitioning residents.
The 120 petition signatories are demanding that the Town defend the will of the Cherry Ridge community from the DSBN’s proposal, insisting that the park remain a “passive” neighbourhood park as it was intended. A letter also received by Council at the meeting, written by residents Ed Doucette and Lisa Hunt, echoed the intention of the petition, stating, “Several homeowners, original and new, purchased those lots based on the park designation remaining passive — changing that designation afterwards is disingenuous. You are an elected group of officials whose mandate is to represent the Town’s best interests and protect the best interests of the ward constituents. The residents certainly have voiced their concerns in several different methods, and the resounding message is ‘do not give away any portion of the park.’”
Council also received correspondence from Principal M. Leduc, of Wellington Heights Public School, indicating that he was disappointed in Council’s decision to reconsider its potential partnership with the DSBN. Leduc’s letter asserted that if the Town does not allow the DSBN to construct a soccer field on Cherry Ridge Park, the school would have to use “existing school property which would result in the loss of the hills and landscape that both the students and the community members have enjoyed for years.”
Following a public meeting at the Fenwick Fire Hall on the evening of Feb. 8, Councillor Marvin Junkin decided to take a trip down to Cherry Ridge Park to have a look at the public space where the DSBN was proposing to build a soccer field. Finding it a worthwhile endeavour, Junkin encouraged his fellow Councillors to visit the park to become acquainted with the issue firsthand.
“I encourage you to go there and look over the fence and see just exactly what’s being discussed,” he said.
“While I was there, there were a couple people walking their dogs and they certainly filled me in on their concern for their park.”