(THUNDER BAY, ON) – Below is a statement released by Redwood Park Church which flies in the face of what the City of Thunder Bay had to say about the abrupt demolition of a park that is loved by many in the neighbourhood. The park was demolished without any meaningful notice or discussion with the constituents of the area.
But first, Northwood Councillor Shelby Ch’ng’s statement.
”A number of people are quite upset with the removal of the play equipment at Redwood Church play area. While new play equipment might not go in the same location, I will be working with the neighbourhood, church and city to find an alternative solution. This caught me by surprise but I’m confident we can find a solution.
The memo from City Administration this morning.
The following is intended to inform you about a recent playground removal at Redwood Church that is causing concern with local residents.
The playground at Redwood Church was constructed over 30 years ago by the City with an agreement at the time with the Lakehead Public School Board as it was their land. In our last playground inspection last year it was identified that the structure had outlived its normal service life and should be replaced or have extensive repair work done. Parks & Open Spaces confirmed with the Realty Division that the property was the Churches and not the City’s and that there was no current agreement with the church because the past agreement between the city and school board was no longer valid when the land was sold to the Church.
Approximately a month or two ago Parks staff had a few telephone conversations with representatives from Redwood Church to discuss the future of the playground as the playground was becoming a liability to all in its current state. Four possible solutions were discussed and then the church representatives presented the options to the church board for a final decision, as the play unit is on Redwood Church property, not city property.
The four recommendations were
- Parks – purchase the property from the church and keep the play unit, maintain the play unit and plan for future upgrade
- Parks and Church come to an agreement for Parks to lease the land from the Church and to maintain the play unit and plan for future upgrade.
- Redwood Church keep the play unit and maintain as a private play unit.
- Parks remove the play equipment and bring ground back to original state as Redwood property.
Parks was then contacted about 2 weeks later with #4 as their boards decision. Once the direction from the church was given Parks scheduled the removal of the playground. At this time Parks in not aware of the Church’s plans for use of the space that we have returned to original state.
In the future Chapples Park area is a potential location to install additional playground equipment as part of that overall development, however it is not currently budgeted for in capital and we have multiple high priority playground replacements to complete before we would give priority to an expansion project such as this.
REDWOOD PARK CHURCH STATEMENT
“Redwood Park Church would like to share with our friends and neighbours what took place that led to the city removing the playground equipment located on Redwood’s property. Approximately one month ago, the City of Thunder Bay’s Parks Department contacted Redwood Park Church to discuss the future of the city-owned playground located on land owned by Redwood Park Church.
As the playground was ageing and presently over 30 years old, the city initiated a conversation with Redwood on the matter. In that discussion, several options pertaining to the playground were made. The first option was to turn over the ownership of the playground equipment to Redwood Park Church requiring Redwood to take complete responsibility for maintenance and upkeep of the ageing equipment and update the playground to meet city guidelines.
This option would require a significant financial commitment on the part of Redwood to update and maintain the up to now neglected equipment. The second option was for Redwood to give the City of Thunder Bay the land which the playground was sitting on. It was made clear in the conversation that there was no interest on the city’s part to make an offer to purchase the land. Furthermore, if Redwood opted to give the city the land, the city would commit to building a new playground on the property within the next 5 years.
The third option would be that if Redwood would not be willing to give away the land and not be willing to take over the liability, maintenance and upkeep on 30-year-old playground equipment, the city would remove the equipment and restore the property to its original condition.
During the conversation, the person representing the city stated an unwillingness to maintain the status quo of the current arrangement in which the city would continue to provide maintenance and upkeep on the equipment that rested on land owned by Redwood Park Church. At no time was there an offer to lease the land for a fee and at no time was there an offer to purchase the land.
This left Redwood with no real viable option other than to communicate to the city that Redwood did not have a desire to give away our land for free nor were we in a financial position to take on both the liability risks and financial responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the playground.
In light of this, the decision was made by the city to remove the equipment. It is unfortunate that there was no communication of this decision to remove the playground equipment by the city to the neighbourhood.
We will miss this park, too.”
Citizen journalist born and raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario. I like pizza and reporting on concerning events that are in my home region, or that impact it. You can read more by clicking here.