Eagle Mountain residents are unhappy that their neighbourhood park may be off limits for a substantial park of each day come 2022.
The city surveyed residents this spring about plans for the park once a new school is built on an adjacent property. The city told residents that once the school is constructed, the park would be used by students during school hours. That would likely mean access to the park would be restricted for the general public between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. each school day. Access to the popular walking path would also be restricted.
Residents of the neighbourhood aren’t enthusiastic about the idea.
Of those who commented during this spring’s survey, 85 per cent opposed restricted field access. More than 200 people left comments, half of whom said they used the park daily.
“This is unfortunate as the park was a major draw for us when we moved here,” one person wrote. “Where will the greenspace be available for residents on the mountain during the day then? Will the city make available new park space in the yet undeveloped side?”
The city says it has always been the plan for the park to be shared in such a fashion, once a long-awaited new school eventually got built. But few respondents seemed aware of such plans. Several noted that the park is used by pre-schooler kids.
“This proposed change to the existing access to Eagle Mountain Park makes no sense at all,” wrote another. “This is a public park that is used by all ages for multiple purposes. To restrict public access during school hours is not in the best interest of the neighbourhood or those who frequent the park on a regular basis.”
Some suggested ways for both students and the general public to be able to use the park during the day. Some said the public should be be able to use the field during school hours, if no students were there. Others asked for the school district to provide more supervision to allow the public’s use at the same time, or for access to a flat area where non-students could walk.
Council is set to discuss the matter at a meeting Monday afternoon.
In a report for that meeting, city staff wrote that “The opportunity to use publicly funded space more efficiently creates an opportunity to better maximize resources through joint use municipal/school partnerships.
“The shared use of facilities increases opportunities for participation in recreation by allowing community access to school amenities at all reasonable times when not required for educational purposes (e.g. after school, evenings, weekends, and holidays) and allowing student access to city facilities during daytime hours when utilization by the community is typically lower. Improved joint use facilities also benefit students as the quality of amenities and long-term maintenance and replacement of assets can be better resourced between partners.”
The city and the school district continue to negotiate capital sharing and joint use agreements for the park.
Staff wrote: “The feedback from the community will continue to be taken into account for the improvements to and the shared use of Eagle Mountain Park by the School District. Shared use of the park is for the benefit of Abbotsford residents and students.”
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