This article appeared in the Kamloops Daily News on May 2nd, 2012 and was written by Mike Youds.
For a neighbourhood nervous about a proposed strip mine just over the hill, a City open house on Wednesday seemed, well, more like a walk in the park.
West Highlands will be Kamloops’ newest city park once it’s developed next year, and there was no doubt at Aberdeen elementary Wednesday night that the park will be a crowd pleaser.
“It’s a good thing,” said Vance Ardell, one of about 75 people, many of them area residents, who attended the session. “I’d like to see people using it, I like to see the dogs out using it and the kids using it, too. I like the whole thing.”
The 14-hectare, donut-shaped green space is an urban redevelopment project that practically fell into the City’s lap when Aberdeen Highlands Development Corp. decided to close Aberdeen Links last fall.
The golf course simply wasn’t sustainable, said Glenn Grant, a neighbourhood resident.
“This will be more widely used by residents around there,” he said.
Responding to a survey that showed overwhelming support for a park, the company sold a parcel of the land to the City for $2.3 million and donated other portions. With another $2.5 million earmarked for park development, the City got the planning process underway Wednesday by asking for input.
Conceptual plans include redeveloping the former clubhouse as a possible community centre flanked by a couple of playfields, expanded parking, community gardens and preservation of the existing pond. A 1.7-kilometre linear path would weave through the grassland section of the park, which encircles an existing subdivision.
Erynn Carney, a young mother, sees the potential to address a recreational shortcoming in the city — toddler parks.
“There are so many kids up here,” she said. “In fact, most of the city doesn’t have a toddler-friendly park.”
Another not-quite-so-young contingent was well represented.
Matthew Gosse was with a group of young longboard riders from throughout the city who hope to see part of the park offer paved trails. As members of the Kamloops Longboard Club, they give lessons to youngsters and argue for a safer alternative to streets.
“Opportunities like this don’t come up too often,” Gosse said, noting that the amenity could serve multiple purposes.
“It would be the best place in the city for it,” added Brendan Woods, who recalled having been hit twice by vehicles while longboarding on the street.
Winter sports — skating on the pond and cross-country skiing on the trail — are another possibility.
“Given the elevation of the park, I think winter activities could have huge appeal,” said Michael Doll, a City parks planner.
There was but one bone of contention at the open house. Several residents complained about off-leash dogs and canine droppings. Stick-it notes were strategically placed on one map to show where bag dispensers ought to go.
“This is the biggest doggy park in the world,” said Joanne Linnell, whose home overlooks the golf course. “Is it going to be a doggy park or a park for people?”
With potential for another 3,000 residents in the neighbourhood through build-out by the developer over the next 10 to 15 years, there will be even greater need for a park in the area, said Coun. Nelly Dever.
Nick DeCicco, the City’s parks planning and project supervisor, said that’s a citywide complaint not confined to Aberdeen. He said residents are happy to see the former golf course preserved as public green space.
“Everything going well, we should be able to get the park developed next year,” he said.
Another open house will be held once public input has been added to the concept plan.