Niagara-on-the-Lake resident Pamela Wilson wants to create an accessible park behind the community centre to promote wellness and community for all NOTLers.
“I want people to be able to walk there safely. It’s the safety aspect I think that matters,” Wilson said in an interview Friday.
It’s important for there to be outdoor parks accessible for residents who rely on wheelchairs, walkers, canes and other mobility devices, she said.
Wilson, a resident of Old Town, said she often travels to Virgil to enjoy the Centennial Sports Park's well-manicured paths. Even though she doesn't suffer any mobility impediments, she still feels "safe there to walk."
“Using a park in our area can sometimes be cumbersome for those with mobility devices,” she said during a committee of the whole meeting last week.
“I’ve seen and I’ve been in accessible parks and they are wonderful. It makes it so that everyone can enjoy the beauty.”
She said town staff would “love the challenge” of making an accessible park with flat walking paths for those who use mobility devices.
“Nature excursions to forests are not feasible for everyone,” she said.
Wilson said she also enjoys Centennial Park due to the bevy of trees on the property, something she thinks would enhance the empty space behind the community centre.
“It’s just a blank slate back there and it has such potential to be a nice walking park — no bicycles allowed,” she told The Lake Report.
Outdoor exercise is recommended by doctors as a cure for many minor maladies, Wilson told council.
“A strong body of literature shows that those who spend as little as 20 to 30 minutes outside a day leads to better health outcomes such as blood pressure, mental health and a boosted immune response."
Wilson suggested the park be built between the community garden and the vineyards.
Loneliness imposed by COVID-19 has been a big problem for mental health and an accessible community park would facilitate more social interaction for residents who have found themselves increasingly isolated by the pandemic, she told The Lake Report.
Councillors were receptive to the proposal but wanted a report on the cost and maintenance before making any decisions.
There were also some concerns raised about other projects that may require the space in the future, Wilson said after she discussed the project with chief administrator Marnie Cluckie.
Wilson had an idea for how to lessen the financial burden on the town: “Allow residents to grow, plant a tree or plant, put in a bench or a bush for a memorial garden,” she told council.
“(The costs could) be defrayed by families who wish to memorialize a loved one.”
"This would provide such a meaningful connection to our park — and I’m already calling it ‘our park,’ ” Wilson laughed.
Lord Mayor Betty Disero suggested Wilson connect with parks and recreation manager Kevin Turcotte to discuss the suitability of the location, noting planting trees near the vineyard could be problematic.
Coun. Sandra O’Connor asked Wilson whether any residents had committed to supporting the park.
“I already have orders for two trees and a couple of benches. I think our town will come forward,” Wilson said, adding everyone she has talked to about the project has been supportive.
Any decision on the park will come after a staff report on the proposal in February or March, Cluckie said.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report