Concerns about Kent Park and an attempt to make minor adjustments to its design arose at Huntsville council’s March 28 meeting, but council decided to stay the course—for now.
Deputy Mayor Nancy Alcock said she’s been hearing concerns from the community.
She reminded council there had been discussions about having a handful of very distinct natural boulders in the park, much larger than the ones that have been currently placed there.
“It all started late last fall when all of the armour rock was put into Kent Park, and I know it’s still a construction zone. I get it. I understand that, but I heard actually from a number of people in the community who wondered what we were doing in Kent Park,” said Alcock, also adding that the comments were not entirely favourable.
She asked whether large natural boulders are still the plan for the park. She also questioned whether council had an appetite for using a little bit of granite to soften the look and provide an accent to at least the entranceway at one of the corners going into the park.
Alcock said she’s been asked about placing an art installation in the park, given how popular the Tom Thomson statue has been at Civic Square. She told her fellow councillors that if they agreed, she would like to see some discussion about where it could be located and how to go about it “because we’ve learned our lesson [about]installing a piece of art thinking that everyone will love it. So we don’t want to do that, but we used to have an art acquisition committee that was made up of members of the arts community and staff.”
Alcock said she just wanted to put the concerns before council and see if there’d be any support to make some enhancements. “I put it out to council for response and if I don’t have any support for any of it, well then I know where council’s at and I gave it my last shot,” she explained.
Councillor Bob Stone said he agreed with the boulders, he was okay with a little granite and felt a little gun-shy about an art installation but would be happy to entertain a dialogue about it.
Councillor Tim Withey said he’s concerned with making changes at this juncture. “I mean are we trying to apply band-aids on stuff?” He questioned how much more adding such features will cost. “I think we need to settle on something, make sure it’s within budget, and do it.”
Councillor Dan Armour said Kent Park is a focal point in the community and while Alcock does have some great ideas, “I think we should maybe stay with where we are right now and see what the finished product looks like and then go from there.” He also questioned whether the larger boulders could pose a safety issue with kids climbing on them. He said he would be okay with looking at it further down the road.
Councillor Jonathan Wiebe agreed with Alcock and said it was also his impression that accent pieces in the form of larger boulders would be placed in the park. “I think it’s a miss to not do that. It’s an attraction, you know, it really does show off what we’re about.”
He said trying to add it after the fact is a bad idea “because moving large stones into a finished surface, you’re just asking for trouble.”
Wiebe thought the boulders had maybe been missed or underestimated and said it’s something the Town needs to look into before it’s too late. He said the granite accent at the entranceway is probably a minor expense and agreed with Alcock in that it would probably go a long way to softening the edges. “But if committee felt that they didn’t want to change too big a course then it’s something that’s obviously much easier to remedy or adjust later, but as far as the bigger boulders I think it’s going to be a missed opportunity if we don’t add some real character in there.”
Councillor Brian Thompson said he’d be onside with adding a couple of boulders to the entrance but disagreed with any further changes. “Let’s get going with this… it’s a park for crying out loud. We’ve kicked it around for two years for crying out loud so let’s get on with it.”
Councillor Dione Schumacher clarified that her concerns at the time when granite-feathered pavers had been discussed involved ease of accessibility for those with visual impairment issues. “I do know, again working with populations with development disabilities—Down syndrome, anyone with dementia—the darker sort of contrast creates a visual of depth perception that’s harder to sort of navigate.”
Schumacher said she was okay with adding boulders, as had been discussed, and noted that an art acquisition committee does exist.
Huntsville Mayor Karin Terziano reminded council that the tender for the project has already gone out. “This project would’ve been finished had we not lost the first contractor that started it because we had to get another contractor to finish it. I just feel like we’re not giving the contractor a chance to complete the park and we’re assuming that the park is going to look like what it looks like today, which we know it isn’t. It doesn’t have anything in it,” she said.
As far as the large boulders go, Terziano said she’s not convinced that every boulder that’s supposed to go in the park is there yet. “I think that’s a good question for the contractor and if the boulders the size that the deputy mayor is highlighting aren’t there, we need to get them there before the contractor finishes the park,” she said, adding that the contractor is supposed to be returning in April. “I have a little bit of concern about changing much other than to ensure we have the boulders that we’ve always envisioned that would be there and I think that’s staff’s job to ensure that they are there.”
Terziano said as far as an art installation goes, it may return to the council table and council may go through a public process to see what people want to see in the park, but it won’t be part of getting the park completed. “It will be an add-on… We want people back in it by June,” she said of the park and its completion.
“You know, I have to agree with Councillor Thompson we’ve been kicking this one around for a couple of years and I think we should have faith in the fact that this park is going to turn out just fine,” she said.
Staff was asked to follow up on the boulders.
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