Maddie Fulford, 10, hands out welcoming flyers as the official opening of Lansdowne Park took place Friday and is the culmination of more than a year of intensive construction to complete the new 18-acre urban park. Wayne Cuddington / Ottawa Citizen
What sort of organization gets the public all excited about a huge project like Lansdowne’s urban park then quietly closes parts of it down with no explanation?
That would be your city government at work. Or not, as the case may be.
After this weekend’s splashy public opening of the $42-million urban park — the price includes the relocation and renovation of the Horticulture Building — visitors to the play area and skatepark found these already-popular elements mysteriously cordoned off. No signage, no notice, no public service announcement until after the Citizen’s David Reevely made inquiries to the city.
It turns out that crews working furiously on Lansdowne’s urban park ran out of time to pour the rubberized surface for the play area before the grand opening. Instead of keeping the playground closed, city officials decided to cover the ground with wood chips temporarily for the weekend. It was the right decision — the children’s play area and skatepark were the huge hits.
Anyone who’s ever lived through a home improvement project can have some sympathy for others suffering renovation delays. So it’s not the fact that the park wasn’t completely finished that’s inexcusable, it’s the way the city handled the news. Did they think that no one would notice the play area and skatepark were off limits? Not even local Coun. David Chernushenko knew about the closures until reading about it on Twitter.
The communications were “not handled in as proficient a manner as we would have hoped,” admitted the city’s parks and recreation manager, Dan Chenier.
Two days after Lansdowne’s grand opening, its playground and skate park have been closed for more work.
Indeed. Chenier went on to explain that there was some confusion as to how quickly the crews would move to install the permanent rubberized surface, which will need at least a few dry days to pour and cure. Chenier said he hopes the play area and skatepark — which has to be closed during the work because of its proximity to the playground — will be open again this weekend, but the timing is weather dependent.
But the incident raises another question: How was the opening date for the park determined? Was the date based on practicality? Or politics?
Joanne Chianello, Ottawa Citizen
This is not the first time it's been noted that Ottawa's mayoral race is a little lacklustre, with just a few candidates in the running and only one who is even remotely able to challenge incumbent Mayor Jim Watson. But even second-place, fiscally conservative Mike Maguire is a longshot for the top job at this point.
One of the reasons for the absence of challengers could be that Watson is doing a good enough job. Or perhaps running against Watson's storied political machine is too daunting for some.
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But a local activist group believes we can improve both the range of electoral choices as well as democratic participation by changing the way we vote.
Ottawa123 is advocating for our next city council to implement the ranked-choice ballot in time for the 2018 election, and is trying to make changing our current first-past-the-post system an election issue this time around.
The ranked-choice ballot is a fairly simple concept. Voters indicate their first, second and third choices for mayor (or other elected official). Whoever gets the least number of votes is eliminated. If your candidate is dropped off the list, then your vote goes to your second choice. This process continues until someone has more than 50 per cent of the vote. The counting is usually done automatically by computers — there aren't separate rounds of voting. (For a demonstration, go to Ottawa123.ca.)
David Reevely, Ottawa Citizen
Two days after the grand opening of the new “urban park” at Lansdowne, two of its key features have been closed — the playground because it isn’t finished and the skate park because it’s crumbling.
Monday afternoon, skateboarders had taken over the basketball courts when they found the nearby ramps and rails of the skate park fenced off, along with the nearby playground. The “great lawn” is open, but mostly what Lansdowne offers this week is empty plazas and views of the ongoing construction work. A promised water plaza isn’t ready yet and neither is a grassy berm with a lighted sculpture.
During the opening festivities on Saturday and then again on Sunday, dozens of children at a time swarmed Lansdowne’s playground, whose main feature is an undulating piece of metalwork covered in nets and climbing ropes. On Monday, the wood chips under the structure had been cleared away and ribbed plastic tubing was strewn around. No signs explained the closure.
“Last week’s weather prevented completion of the finishing touches on the play structure area, which needed dry conditions,” said the city’s general manager of infrastructure, Wayne Newell, in written answers to questions from the Citizen. “However, the City made certain the structure was available for the public over the weekend. The final elements in the play structure are now being completed.”
The work should take about a week, he wrote.