Victoria Park in for facelift à la Bowring, Bannerman

A 124-year-old historic park in the west end of downtown St. John's is in for a major overhaul.
St. John's Mayor Dennis O'Keefe, flanked by Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Galgay, gives a thumbs-up to the idea of opening up Bennett's Creek, which runs through and under Victoria Park. (CBC)

A 124-year-old park in the west end of downtown St. John's is in for a major overhaul.

Victoria Park has received an initial $1 million to get the ball rolling — a 50/50 split between city hall and the province.

It will be the third historic park in St. John's to be re-vamped.

The city said it's now up to area residents and other users to decide how the park will look in the future.

"It's about turning the park back to seniors and children and people in general," Mayor Dennis O'Keefe told reporters during a casual briefing in the park on Friday.

"What do you want to see here? What do you want to do here? And on the basis of that feedback, that's what we'll do."

Public consultations will be held over the next couple of months to glean input from anyone with a stake in Victoria Park.

Keeps promise

Ward 2 Coun. Jonathan Galgay, who made the project a key plank in his election platform last year, said some of the obvious targets for improvement include the old pool house, washrooms and lighting. The pool itself closed in 1998.

But he said a bigger project could involve opening up Bennett's Creek, a small waterway that runs down through the green space.

O'Keefe could barely contain his enthusiasm at the mere mention of the idea.

"That will make this park unique," said O'Keefe.

"If we can open up the cascades that flow down over the hill from Hamilton Avenue, the way they were in the 1940s, 50s, and 60s ... wow! It will be absolutely tremendous."

The softball field in Victoria Park. (CBC)
Victoria Park opened in 1890, and encompasses six and a half acres of land between Hamilton Avenue and Water Street.

The move to revitalize the park comes on the heels of similar projects at Bowring and Bannerman parks in St. John's. Both parks have undergone extensive renovations and improvements, largely through the work of foundations set up in their names.

O'Keefe and Galgay said Victoria Park will follow the same model.

"It really is going to play a major role in renewing the downtown because the park is in the heart of the west end of the downtown," said O'Keefe. "And at end of day we're going to have one of the most beautiful, recreational and quiet parks in the city."

A popular softball field occupies a large section of the centre of the park, but there was no word on its possible fate in the renovation.

Talk of opening up Bennett's Creek several years ago led to concerns that the ball field would be taken out to make way for the project.


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