New Brunswick

This park of ours: Saint John group organizes event to promote Tucker Park and prevent its sale

A grassroots movement that wants to get Saint John's Tucker Park off the list of public places the city might sell is organizing a day to show the public just how special the land really is.

Tucker Park is one of 10 properties the city considers selling to increase its urban tax base

Tucker Park is one of 10 properties the city singled out earlier this year as potentially being sold. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

A grassroots movement that wants to get Saint John's Tucker Park off the list of public places the city might sell is organizing a day to show the public just how special the land really is.

While he wouldn't call it a protest, co-organizer Brent Mason said the event's intent is pretty clear.

"None of us want this to be about storming the castle with burning torches," Mason said.

I'm sure developers have been talking to  councillors . But we the people, you know?- Brent Mason, event co-organizer

"Still, full disclosure, this has to be perceived as a public move to, you know, mitigate whatever is going on in back rooms,

"I'm sure developers have been talking to councillors. But we the people, you know?"

10 properties for sale

In an effort to reverse population decline and get the city's economy and tax base growing, Mayor Don Darling announced the Roadmap for Smart Growth in March.

As part of the plan, council launched a campaign to sell 10 city-owned properties to development, including Saint John's former synagogue, which was recently purchased by Cooke Aquaculture.

Don Darling said the city already faces "significant" financial problems but is still weighing its options. (CBC)

But out of all the properties for sale, Tucker Park has drawn the most attention, with several citizens and community groups working to prevent the sale.

One motion to have ownership of the park partially transferred to a community association was shut down earlier this month.

Darling has since repeatedly pointed out the park and its beach hasn't actually sold. The city is merely weighing its options, he said.

"I can tell you there would be a strong desire to find a good project for Tucker Park that we could turn into tax investment or tax dollars for the city, so that we can invest in the citizens' priorities," the mayor said in a previous interview.

Mason, who considers Darling the most "with it" Saint John mayor he's seen in years, said he doesn't want the Celebrate Tucker Park event to be seen as antagonistic.

"It would be great to see the councillors and the mayor come," he said. "I think it would suck if people got in their face."

Parks needs more TLC

Brian MacDonald and other organizers of the event said the park hasn't been properly cared for in decades.

They hope the celebration will reintroduce people to the park, and also help them learn more about its namesake, Joseph Tucker, and his wishes for the land.

"It's about people, it's about this park and the person who gave us this park," he said.

Kathy Brown said she loves both the spirit and discussion, which the park has ignited in people. (Joseph Tunney/CBC)

For Kathy Brown, the restoration of the park aligns with the overall message the city has been trying to push anyway.

"I love the spirit that has been ignited and continues to grow," she said. "I think it's part of Saint Awesome."

The event itself, which is planned for Sept. 9, will include live music, kayaking, swimming and a history walk so people can learn more about the park.

My skin crawls with the idea of one of these McMansions looming over Tucker Park at some point in the future to generate a few bucks that are going to go, 'zutt,' sucked down the interest payment pipeline.- Brent Mason, event co-organizer

On Facebook, more than 300 people already expressed interest or said they're going to the event.

Mason doesn't know how many people will show up in person, but other organizers said its nice to bring the movement into the real world, he said.

"My skin crawls with the idea of one of these McMansions looming over Tucker Park at some point in the future to generate a few bucks that are going to go, 'zutt,' sucked down the interest payment pipeline," he said.