Councillor wants to breathe new life into overlooked parks in CBRM

·3 min read
A maple tree and grass is shown growing up out of a tennis court at Brown Street park in Sydney Mines, N.S.  (Erin Pottie/CBC - image credit)
A maple tree and grass is shown growing up out of a tennis court at Brown Street park in Sydney Mines, N.S. (Erin Pottie/CBC - image credit)

A short, bushy maple tree and weeds have overgrown a space that was once used as a tennis court at the Brown Street park in Sydney Mines, N.S. The ball diamond is surrounded by a rusted fence and graffiti-tagged dugouts.

But people living in the neighbourhood say it has the potential for much more.

"It was one of those green spaces that I always thought should be refreshed," said District 1 Coun. Gordon MacDonald, who represents the area on Cape Breton Regional Municipality council.

"For all my years of growing up in the community, you know, Brown Street is one of those places that all kinds of big events happened."

But MacDonald said not much is going on at the municipally owned field these days, with the exception of some student activities from a nearby school and some little league baseball games.

He is now hoping to change that. In late September, he began asking residents what they would like to see in their neighbourhood.

Erin Pottie/CBC
Erin Pottie/CBC

A similar project that was pushed forward by a community group in nearby North Sydney in 2016 saw a transformation of a park at Indian Beach with funding provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency and the CBRM.

MacDonald said he would like to see a similar effort in Sydney Mines.

"I'm hoping that the community comes on board and I hope the community engages and it becomes their little project," he said. "We can make it so that, you know, we can form a non-profit group to be able to look at, you know, maintaining their space."

Brown Street park is one of a few recreational spaces in MacDonald's district that he said need refurbishment, including a community park in Florence. MacDonald wants the municipality to consider breathing new life into parks that he said are often overlooked.

"It's about bringing back some of the recreational spaces that we always had in all these little communities prior to amalgamation."

Tom Ayers/CBC
Tom Ayers/CBC

MacDonald said the Brown Street ballpark and tennis courts have potential to be a community hub for all-ages, and could include sports like basketball and wiffle ball.

Beverley Phillips has lived in the neighbourhood for about 10 years now, but said little goes on at Brown Street with the exception of a few baseball games.

"We did actually used to try to use the tennis courts that have no nets and are full of cracks and with weeds growing up through them. But that didn't last very long because it doesn't go very well," Phillips said. "More outdoor activities for kids to get them moving I think is always a good thing."

Fred McLaren, who lives nearby and visits the park most evenings, said it would benefit from new finishings and a public washroom or two.

"It's been let go, it's forgotten," said McLaren. "And it's a shame because I've seen lots of fields in my life and this is one of the nicest fields."

MacDonald said he hopes that when a community group is formed, the project will be able to access funding from both the CBRM and through fundraising.

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