Mayor brokers compromise over Sunningdale park fence

Council unanimously agreed with Martin's suggestion to erect a temporary net backstop fence that will only be up during soccer season.

Problem solved and neighbours are satisfied in the matter of soccer balls leaving Lower Sunningdale Park and landing in homeowners’ yards.

Trail Mayor Mike Martin gathered all parties involved, the complainant, the soccer association and neighbours opposed to a permanent chain link at the sight, and came to an amenable agreement for the installation of a temporary barrier.

Since Trail council passed a motion April 13 for a permanent fence that would obstruct park views from adjacent homes, a neighbourhood petition with 70 signatures and quite formidable arguments were brought to the city, explained Martin during Monday’s governance meeting.

“This initiative has taken on an incredible amount of time for both staff and others,” said the mayor. “I thought I would try to help the process and meet with these respective groups and see if there was some middle ground to reach.”

The conclusion of all the discussions is a resolution to install a temporary netting-type fence, he confirmed.

Council unanimously agreed with Martin’s summary and directed staff to investigate appropriate fencing material. Costs, excluding ongoing labour, will be within the previously approved $7,500 budget, and the net will only be up during the April-to-August soccer season.

The planned fence is better referred to as a removable backstop net, explained Robert Baker, from the Trail parks department.

The mesh-like netting, noted to be 20-feet high by 65-feet wide, differs from the previous snow fencing in that it won’t break down and crack, causing a hazard to wildlife (essentially deer) passing through the park.

“The netting will stay up for the season, rather than raising and lowering it daily,” said Baker, adding the material will be relatively unnoticeable at a distance and the black posts will blend into the natural surrounding.

“I’d like to add that the residents of the area and the soccer association should be recognized for their patience and cooperation,” said Baker. “It’s a pleasure working with good people.”

Following council’s previous decision to install the permanent fence, city staff identified a funding source for the safety barrier through its municipal insurers.

While the insurers recognized the potential solution as appropriate for a risk management grant, the situation was not deemed a priority and isn’t binding for future potential liabilities.

The city has to make best effort to avoid incidents such as tripping or falling in its parks, based on proper maintenance and care of each facility, explained Michelle McIssac, the city’s corporate officer.

“In the case of our parks maintenance programs, we need to be mowing and inspecting and so on,” she said. “If we did absolutely nothing, perhaps they could say the city is negligent, but this is an effort to deal with the worse case scenario.”

Coun. Robert Cacchioni has lived across from the Sunningdale park for two decades, and said the issue was blown way out of proportion, and is a lesson learned about reacting to one or two people.

“I mean it’s much ado about nothing in many ways,” he said. “I’m not here to react to one person. (When) dealing with an individual or vested group, or pressure from an individual or group and we react each time – then that’s what is going to be expected of council all the time.”

“I’ve been there 20 years and never had any trouble, doesn’t matter how many balls come into my yard, I just throw them back.”

Additionally, he asked staff to review city notices mailed to affected citizens when various changes are proposed.

“The way they go out now, you send out 18 and get two or three replies and assume the 15 who didn’t reply are okay with it. Specify one way or the other a reply is needed or you won’t be considered in the discussion.”