Letter to the editor – NG Parks & Recreation

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Dear Editor

I appreciate that the Mayor and members of council write informative articles in the NG Times about municipal issues. I am writing to comment on Councillor Doreen O’Sullivan’s article of August 28, titled, “NG Parks, Recreation and Culture: How are we doing?”

I find it interesting that the article has a focus towards enlarging and improving the parks and recreation facilities in this community, without any mention of the costs. Our Parks and Recreation Department costs almost as much as Public Works, and is a tremendous burden on taxpayers. I think it’s good for a community to have some parks and recreational facilities, as long as they are well used, cost effective, don’t compete with private sector providers, and don’t place an excessive burden on property taxpayers. I suspect that most of our parks and recreation facilities are used infrequently, and by a small fraction of the municipality’s residents, with a likely cost per user that is astronomical. The Parks and Recreation Department should have some numbers. I’d like to see them.

For comparison:

1) Ottawa has 18 indoor swimming pools and 9 outdoor swimming pools, for a grand total of 27 swimming pools. In a city of one million, that’s 1 pool for every 37,000 residents. So Ottawa has about half as many pools per resident as North Grenville. Conclusion: We are well served with our one pool.

2) Ottawa has 34 indoor ice arenas. That’s 1 arena for every 29,400 residents. North Grenville has 3 indoor ice arenas, which is about what’s needed for a community of 88,000. Can you say overkill? Conclusion: We are way over-served with indoor rinks.

3) Ottawa has 48 wading pools. 1 for every 21,000 residents. I don’t think North Grenville has one yet. Conclusion: Maybe wait until we have a larger population before we go through this large expense; or, better yet, why not go wading in the natural waterways in this area. There’s even beaches at Rideau River Provincial Park, Baxter Conservation Area and in Merrickville.

4) Oh no, Splash pads again! It looks like Ottawa has 1 for every 6850 residents, about 2.5 times as many as North Grenville. Conclusion: Yikes, I’ve just given the splash pad people the justification for building a new splash pad. What’s a splash pad for anyway? It seems to me it’s about providing kids with a place to play in the water and provide some relief from the summer heat. Why not see 3) above, or get some sprinklers out on the grass at Riverside park? Would this not provide a similar experience to a splash pad, at a tiny fraction of the cost? Isn’t it safer for kids to run around on soft grass, rather than unforgiving concrete? For all those concerned about climate change and pollution, what is the carbon and pollution footprint to build and operate a concrete splash pad?

5) Ball parks: South Gower, Bishops Mills, Riverside park, etc… More than enough and no deficit compared to Ottawa.

6) Parks and trails: Rail trail, Ferguson Forest Centre, Limerick Forest, skidoo and ATV trails. Same as 5) above. Enough said.

If the municipal council wants to promote the well being of the residents of North Grenville, make a promise to lower tax rates. With the massive MPAC and rate increases of the past years, going forward, it won’t be long before a retiree’s CPP and OAS benefit will be used up just to pay property taxes. How are they going to eat? The greatest concern of most residents is economic security. There are many studies – and it’s just common sense – that show that economic insecurity has a terrible effect on physical and mental health. If parks and recreation expenditures result in excessive property taxation, as it already does, then this will do more damage to peoples’ health and well being than any benefit from more and more sports and rec. facilities. It’s pretty obvious that government only provides economic security for itself and its employees, and not the vast majority of the people who work in the private sector.

Why not privatize the Parks and Recreation Department? Let the private sector and community volunteers take on this work. For example, Ottawa has 277 outdoor rinks, almost all of which are run by volunteers. Let’s bring back and enhance civic engagement, and stop thinking that government will provide all. And let’s be happy with what we already have!

There, I just provided the municipality with a parks and rec. master plan and it didn’t cost the taxpayer a red cent. Where’s my $75,000 consulting fee?

Stephen Hammond

P.S. I opposed the expenditure of $75,000 on the parks and rec. master plan at the committee of the whole meeting July 9. I didn’t see any member of the public support this expenditure at this meeting. Council went ahead and approved the expenditure.

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