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?