New Brunswick

Frustration mounts over neglect of Saint John's Dominion Park

Neglected washrooms, a potholed parking lot and missing benches are making Dominion Park more difficult to enjoy and could mar its reputation among tourists, nearby residents say.

'Basic maintenance' at the park continues to be an issue, say local residents

Children play Wednesday afternoon on Dominion Park beach in west Saint John. Considering the amount of use the park gets and its status as a tourist site, resident Dave Ryan says the park should be better maintained. (Julia Wright / CBC)

The beach at Dominion Park in Saint John is busy all summer with kids from local day camps, dog walkers, folks looking to watch the sunset over the St. John River — even the occasional wedding or church baptism.

But according to nearby residents, missing benches, a potholed parking lot and neglected washrooms are making Dominion Park more difficult to enjoy and are potentially marring its reputation among tourists.

The problems have been going on for eight or nine years, according to Dave Ryan, a west sider and regular park-goer.

Back then, he said, "there was no security — just a chain that went across the gate and a wooden fence that was continually knocked down. There wasn't the upkeep that needed to be done."

'It just went dead' 

Citizens took it upon themselves, he said, to pick up litter, paint the swing set, and perform other maintenance on the park. They were told the city would partner with them to "move things forward a little better."

Since then, "it just went dead," Ryan said. "There's been no followup to that meeting years ago."

This summer, spaces designated for benches at the edge of the parking lot have been left empty, meaning the paths leading to the paved walkways aren't accessible to people with mobility issues.

"I took a walk out last night and there are still benches in the shed that haven't been brought out yet," said Ryan.

There are spaces designated for benches near the walkways that lead down to the beach, but this year none of the seating has been brought out, according to local resident Dave Ryan. (Julia Wright / CBC)

Harbour View High School student Caleb Clifford, 15, was at Dominion Park on Wednesday shooting hoops on the basketball court. He said he and his friends regularly take their bikes to the park to hang out and go swimming.

"People don't really care about this place that often anymore," he said. "I see a bunch of garbage everywhere. I see broken glass and I have to take my bike the other way because I don't want to pop the tire. They fixed some of the pavement but there's still some on the parking lot and down by the canteen, and also the sidewalks, that would be good to do."

Some areas of the parking lot have been repaved in recent years, but the sidewalks and other areas remain in poor repair. (Julia Wright / CBC)

"It is a nice place, it's just that all that stuff brings it down a little bit."

In addition to the potholed areas of the parking lot, Ryan said, the public washrooms in the canteen are in bad need of both regular cleaning and a coat of paint. On Wednesday, toilet paper dispensers in the women's washrooms had been damaged and one of the toilets was clogged. 

Public beach washrooms are never easy to keep pristine, but regular cleaning and a coat of paint would go a long way toward making the park more appealing to tourists, said Dave Ryan. (Julia Wright / CBC)

When community volunteers arrived to do their annual cleanup on the May long weekend this year, Ryan said, the city "didn't even unlock the gates, so the people doing the cleanup had to park outside and walk to the beach, and the washrooms weren't open."

Officials from the City of Saint John said no one was available to comment. 

The lack of maintenance is inexcusable, Ryan said, given that the park is promoted to tourists as part of Stonehammer Geopark, a UNESCO-recognized series of geologically significant sites, as well as a stop on the city's Passport to Parks family fun days throughout the summer.

Dominion Park is promoted to tourists as part of Stonehammer Geopark, a UNESCO-recognized series of geologically significant sites. It is also a stop on the city’s Passport to Parks fun days throughout the summer. (Julia Wright / CBC)

"Dominion Park is in a priority neighbourhood," said Ryan, "and the last time the swing sets were painted it was the community that painted them."

"We'd like the city to step up and be part of this, too, so that all citizens can get full use of the area. We don't need a million dollars. We are talking about basic maintenance that could be done with the current resources that are there.

"It's just not getting done."

With files from Information Morning Saint John