Thursday, April 21, 2011
Councillors on Ottawa's Community and Protective Services Committee took a small but vital step this morning when they approved this new by-law. Dedicating public parks and adding them to the city's official inventory seems like a perfunctory measure, but users of Sylvia Holden Park found out the hard way just how tenuous a park's status can be, and just how clueless the City can sometimes be about its own holdings.
Few people outside of the Glebe had heard of Sylvia Holden until the City lumped it in with the rest of the Lansdowne redevelopment deal. It didn't seem to matter that a very official-looking, blue and green City of Ottawa sign identified the land at the corner of Bank and Holmwood (and perhaps the adjacent strip of grass and trees) as Sylvia Holden Park. According to the City, it wasn't a park in the way most reasonable people would understand the term. Adding to the confusion, most people in the community knew the larger park bordered by Lansdowne, O'Connor Street, Fifth Avenue and Queen Elizabeth Driveway by the name "Sylvia Holden." So, it seems, did the City, because its official inventory still lists the address of Sylvia Holden as 10 Fifth Avenue. That is in fact the address of a day care. In a rather clumsy attempt to clear up the confusion, the City decreed that the larger park was in fact called "Lansdowne Community Park," and it was eventually removed from the process (see Lansdowne Myth #3). The 'other' Sylvia Holden Park remains part of the deal. (A mediated settlement between the City and groups challenging the Lansdowne re-zoning means a "passive public open space area" measuring six by six metres will be retained near Bank and Holmwood. No word on whether it will be named after Sylvia Holden.)
Today's decision to dedicate parks will, in theory at least, prevent this kind of giveaway from happening again by closing a gaping loophole in the city's parks policy. It gets even better: In scouring the city for nameable greenspaces, city staff have uncovered some 100 parks that weren't on the list. They will now be added, and people who enjoy them now will continue to enjoy them.