Students at Thorold Secondary School might be excited about the prospect of playing football on a new turf field at McMillan Park, but some local residents feel the District School Board of Niagara (DSBN) is trying to steal the park away from them.
“To completely kick out the neighbourhood to turn it into a full Astroturf soccer field and running track doesn’t serve 90 per cent of the people that live here,” says Thorold resident Ian Woods. “We have older folks that use it, we have young kids, young families. What are they going to do with a football field?”
As reported by ThoroldToday, the DSBN has put forward a proposal to install a full-size synthetic turf football field at McMillan Park. The existing baseball diamond at the park would remain in place, but the splash pad and playground would need to be relocated.
That last part of the proposal is what bothers Woods the most.
“In the worst-case scenario, I get a soccer field and a running track in my backyard and I can go do exercises on the big artificial field,” he says. “But my children, who are seven and five, lose the ability to walk up the street and go to a splash pad on a Saturday morning. Every day after school we go to the playground and we also use the open space for our dog. It will facilitate the city but why does my neighbourhood have to give up their park?”
According to the current proposal, a new location for the splash pad is yet to be determined. Woods worries the city will just end up removing it.
“I know my neighbourhood, I walk it daily,” he says. “There’s no green space or plot of land available for sale, or that the city owns, that they could convert. So that neighbourhood that we have, that is growing in families, we’re not going to have what we currently have. They’re going to take away our park for a high school which is a 150 years old because they are slowly outgrowing their space. I think it’s shortsighted.”
A few weeks ago, the City of Thorold asked residents for feedback on the proposal, but Woods feels that request came too late.
“I got a leaflet on February 8 and it said I had until the 15th to provide any feedback,” he says. “I had just one week to kind of understand what was actually happening. I talked to all my neighbours. Ninety percent had no idea this was happening.”
Woods, who lives six doors down from the park entrance, feels the city doesn’t really care what residents think.
“Conversations have already happened between the school board and city and the councillors,” says Woods. “And this is now them just going: ‘Okay, let’s see what the public has to say.’ It wasn’t shouted loud enough.”
At the end of the day, Woods isn’t hopeful he’ll be able to save the park.
“For me personally, I feel like it’s gone already, there’s no stopping this,” he says. “If that’s what happens I’m going to have to suck it up. If it’s a facility I can use, I’ll use it, but at the same time I don’t have to agree with it. I’ll eventually get over it but where are my kids going to play?”