City hosts open house for Centennial park project

Public invited to see plans Tuesday at aquatic centre

Pretty much any amenity requires a makeover or make under after 50 years.

So after decades of mowing and watering lawn on a steep hillside east of Glenmerry, the city is looking to reinvent use of Centennial Park.

The goal is to cut manpower and free up water resources required to keep the space green, and introduce new ways to develop the under-utilized park areas.

Before anything happens, the community is invited to an open house at the Trail Aquatic and Leisure Centre Nov. 3 from 3-7 p.m.

The gathering provides a public opportunity to ask questions and provide comments on the proposed park naturalization, which includes conceptual plans for a neighbourhood trail system.

John Howes, the city’s engineering technician, presented a potential park design to council members during the Oct. 13 governance meeting, clarifying any upgrades could be completed in phases over a number of years.

“Getting back to last summer we certainly had some drought conditions, and looking at water usage, Centennial Park stuck out as quite a consumer,” Howes explained, referring to five million litres of water the park soaked up. “That led to further investigation of city resources spent on the park versus actual use of the space.”

MMM Group, the design firm heading downtown Trail revitalization, was tasked with creating a conceptual plan that supports naturalized planting, wetland plants and wildlife, a multi-use pathway connecting the neighbourhood, and a potential community garden site.

Howes met with officials at Glenmerry Elementary and Kinnaird Elementary schools to determine interest in future outdoor classroom learning such as a wetland curriculum in the naturalized space.

“We had an in-depth discussion,” he added. “On such a small scale, the educational purposes and community educational opportunities, could be amazing.”

A sustainable and creative plan fits the vision of a local group of garden volunteers, though the chair concedes most anything can be done depending upon the green.

“There’s a multitude of options for that huge space,” said Dan Rodlie, chair of Trail Community in Bloom (TiB). “The bottom line is money. When you look at all the costs, say maybe $50,000, for water and mowing, there will be even more costs to do (the project) properly.”

Fresh off TiB’s first place win in the international category for the 2015 Communities in Bloom competition, Rodlie weighed in on community features the judge’s look for.

“They have been quite surprised the city was maintaining that portion (grassy hillside in Centennial Park,” Rodlie recalled. “Because it is so steep and mowing is really a hazard.

“And green space is nice to have, but unless it’s near a beach or amenity area, it may not be used as it should be.”

Rather than manicured lawns, what is trending and can add points for Trail in future competitions, are educational parks and gardens that draw people in for more than just visual beauty.

“Some of our members have reservations so we have been discussing it,” Rodlie added. “Because taking away a green space is like closing down a ball field, it’s really tough for some to visualize and people get kind of shocked. But again, the bottom line for what can be done, is money.”

Not only do neatly manicured green lawns soak up a lot of water, some of the latest environmental research claims that energy expended mowing and fertilizing on top of watering, can actually produce more greenhouse gases than what is soaked up in soil (carbon dioxide).