Barbara Hart 
Member since Oct 14, 2015


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Re: “Fort Needham Memorial Park

I am writing in response to the Park Master Plan Public Presentation given on October 1 by Carolle Koziak Roberts – Policy & Planning, Parks & Recreation and Devin Segal and Rob LeBlanc – Ekistics Planning & Design regarding Fort Needham Memorial Park.
The lands for Fort Needham Memorial Park were deeded to the City in the 1940s by the Halifax Relief Commission and established as a public park as a memorial to the victims of the Halifax Explosion to be used as a public park forever.
As a public park, the new plan impinges on the use of the area as a place for the steady stream of Haligonians who take time for recreation and seeks to make it a tourist attraction. Unless one already lives in Halifax or is a history aficionado, it is unlikely that one would be aware of the event and make the pilgrimage to the park. It seems unwise to prepare for large numbers of tourists over a long time span when the local reality is that new condo and apartment towers are under construction and residents will need this park.
The initial budget is $7.9 million dollars. None of that is allocated for new ice surfaces on Devonshire, which appears on the plan but not on the list of deliverables.
How will expense be recouped? There is nowhere in the plan for tourists to spend money. The cost of staffing an interpretation centre and maintaining a pavilion will outweigh sales of Halifax Explosion hats and t-shirts.
Tax dollars are to be spent principally on ripping out grass and tree and inserting concrete. This hill park is glacial drumlin. A drumlin is a heap of stones covered with a thin layer of soil, unstable, and riddled with natural springs that appear in different places during different years. The idea that poured concrete will look good for more than a year or two is unlikely as soil erosion is continual. Expect high maintenance costs.
The final version of the master plan is not the same as earlier versions. It doesn’t match feedback from the surveys. When the planners claim they sought input, they did. They just did not use it.
Why does the surround community love the Hidden Gem of Halifax? There are tennis courts without waiting lines, hidden enough for beginners and parents teaching their children to have a quiet spot to practice. In earlier versions, they would be improved. Now, they will be removed.
Caring parents watch youngsters practice football, baseball, and soccer. In earlier versions, the field was intact. Now, the Halifax Football field house is off the map and the field is shortened. Instead of a fence to protect passersby from foul balls and keep the players from continually losing balls down the slope to Novalea, all fencing is removed. There is a concrete esplanade at the top of the slope, instead.
Daily double lines of youngsters cross the park, safe on the path, guided from daycare to the recreation center. It is one of the most charming sights in the park. Sometimes they stop in the new play area. That will end as the play area will be a Park Pavilion and the community centre will be the Explosion Interpretive Centre and the Tower of Resilience. A ‘nature play’ area is planned. The plan does not say how long the children will wait during the two-year plan to have a slide and a swing again.
The plan expects to maximize views. The idea late as the recent expansion of the Irving Shipyard has effectively blocked the view of the explosion’s harbour location from the park. There is a view of white factories. Perhaps the plan will simply deforest the hill, despite the lack of view. Deforesting could be silently accomplished by managing ‘storm water’, also on the master plan. Past park projects piped more and more of the water flowing from natural springs in the earth into the storm drains and hence into the harbour. The groundwater level dropped, the trees died and were removed. It gets difficult for wildlife, mainly songbirds, to find places to drink water inside the park. The water there is a precious resource. Why do the planners think it is storm water? Why is it dumped in the harbour? Why increase this waste?
Birdwatchers come to see the song sparrows, hairy and downy woodpeckers, and migrant robins and warblers. Eagles fly overhead. Merlins hunt for pigeons. After windy storms, accidental ravens and harrier hawks seek shelter, mobbed by local crows. The plan puts numerous paths through the small forested area, disrupting the quiet that wildlife must have to thrive. These paths will be very difficult to build, impassible half the year, and costly to maintain on the steep slope. The two-year construction plan with resultant lack of peace and privacy might effectively end nesting cycles forever for some species.
Dogs play in designated areas. Every day of the year, in all weathers, the dog owners bring pets for fresh air and exercise. The year-round area is near the Memorial tower. The seasonal area is the sports field, from November to May. Every day, dozens of family pets from the surrounding homes have a much-needed break to run and play with dogs they know while their owners socialize and build a community. The Fort Needham Dogs Facebook page has 186 members. They are a fraction of the total of pet owners who daily use this hill. That fraction have organized and performed park cleanups to remove trash to benefit all park users. The coming and going of owners and pets gives safety to the other park users, who might be too alone on this hidden hill. The former proposed plans kept the off-leash intact. On the final master plan, it is gone. Simply disappeared with no reason given. The year-round off leash area is covered in concrete in the plan. Until October 1, the off leash area was included. This is bait-and-switch at its worst. The number of local pet owners will increase as the apartment and condo buildings are completed. Where will the dogs play? What will become of the community formed by the owners? Why sacrifice it for tourists, here for a day?
Where is the money coming from for this monster plan to smash the hidden gem of Halifax? Will funding for infrastructure, police and fire services, snow clearing, or school programs be cut? Consider that it is not only the cost of installation but also the cost of maintenance. This will be a money pit for years to come. Are we willing to pay and pay? There is little need to increase access for tourists in winter. The wind howls across the hill, unrestrained, as there is no barrier on any side for a windbreak. Only the pet owners are there, in windproof clothing.
This Master Plan should be not final. The planners have ignored the needs of the community and seem to overlook local needs for the hope of tourism. It should not be done. The Halifax Explosion was a horror and a disaster. It was an industrial accident, destroying homes and lives and bringing great hardship. We remember, we have a memorial and a ceremony. Why must we glorify it by destroying the park that is dedicated to this sad event? Can we never look away from the wreckage and lift our faces to the future?
The city of Halifax has solemn sites for the dead from the old city, the dead of the Titanic, and the immigrants. The city has military sites and memorials at the Citadel and at York Redoubt, with numerous small memorials at the waterfront. The original planners who decades ago made the existing memorial filled the mandate of remembering their dead, who we the living do not recall due to the passage of time. Could Fort Needham be a monument to the living?
Please do not fund this project. Once damaged, the gem may not recover. The community who uses this park is happy with its natural state. Please do not fund the smashing of the hidden gem of Halifax.

2 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Barbara Hart on 10/14/2015 at 6:35 PM

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