De-paved paradise: Environmental group targets asphalt in Saint John park

·3 min read
Nice view, but lots of asphalt at Seaside Park on Saint John's west side.  (Chuck Teed/Facebook - image credit)
Nice view, but lots of asphalt at Seaside Park on Saint John's west side. (Chuck Teed/Facebook - image credit)

For Saint John's Chuck Teed, one of the best things about Seaside Park is the view.

The problem is the entranceway to the aging public park on Saint John's west side would suggest the opposite.

"It's like a million-dollar view and it doesn't reflect it from the entranceway," Teed said.

For a green space with so much potential, he said, there's an awful lot of asphalt in the park.

Chuck Teed/Facebook
Chuck Teed/Facebook

"It's almost like a parking lot and it serves no real purpose."

It's also deteriorating badly.

"The basketball court is so uneven — very hard to play a game of basketball at that court."

Teed, who lives on the west side, began to take interest in the park in 2016, when Blake Armstrong, who was a city councillor at the time, used his own excavator to do work in the park without permission.

Teed said he decided to put his anger over the incident to good use and try to encourage community interest in the neglected park.

He and some other residents began holding summer outdoor movie nights and live musical performances at Seaside.

ACAP Saint John
ACAP Saint John

And while much of that effort was curtailed by the pandemic, it did get the attention of the local environmental group ACAP Saint John.

Bailey Brogan is one of ACAP's climate change project co-ordinators.

The organization decided to get involved with Seaside Park after Brogan's co-worker, Jamylynn McDonald, took part in an initiative with Green Communities Canada.

That's where she learned about the concept of de-paving green spaces, which makes them less susceptible to problems brought on by climate change, and also improves them esthetically.

"You're reducing the amount of water-impervious surfaces," Brogan said in a telephone interview.

"Seaside Park has a lot of pavement and it's low quality," she said, which made it a good place to try a pilot project.

ACAP Saint John
ACAP Saint John

ACAP met with city staff to decide on what could be done initially.

In the end, ACAP applied for funding and last November, it set about to remove a small section of a paved walking loop at the park.

The city provided the heavy equipment to break up the asphalt.

ACAP staff and about 30 community volunteers worked to remove the pavement pieces.

Brogan said it took a few hours work on a Saturday morning to remove about 100 square metres of asphalt.

"Everyone seemed to enjoy it."

ACAP Saint John
ACAP Saint John

Teed said the idea was well-received by people who use the park, "except they would have liked to have seen more removed."

"We would love to," Brogan said. "It all depends on the feedback we get from the community and the city."

And, of course, whether the group can access more funding to pay for the work.

Marc Dionne, the city's director of parks, is supportive of further work at Seaside Park.

"I'd certainly like to see more of the de-paving," he said. "I think the city would be 100 per cent behind the idea."

Dionne said the de-paving is better for the environment, with the added benefit of improving the cosmetic look of the park.

"We'd be on board with that."

Brogan hopes this is just the beginning for ACAP's efforts at Seaside Park.

"We're also thinking about some other ideas, planting more trees, putting in some flower gardens, maybe even some bee houses."

ACAP would also like to hear from community members.

It is holding a public input session next week in the neighbourhood to solicit ideas from residents.

It is scheduled for April 28 at Seaside Elementary School from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

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