What a disappointing Council meeting on Mon. Nov. 23, 2009!
I had submitted two requests for new trails/walkways in Dean Park neighbourhood on behalf of People for a Pedestrian Friendly Dean Park.
The mayor and councillors rejected both of them.
The first was a no-brainer. A narrow strip of land between Richland Place and Portlier Place (both dead end streets) was designated years ago to be linked by a walkway. The neighbours acknowledge they have always known that was the plan, but because the streets were developed at different times, the walkway was never put in. And now the neighbours are dead set against it.
It would be easy to write these people off as NIMBYs, but I don’t wish to create hard feelings within the neighbourhood. As well, residents on these streets (they showed up en masse to speak against a walkway) seem to sincerely believe that a walkway will destroy their privacy, lower their property values and increase their risk of crime and vandalism.
That is not the experience of people who live on other dead end streets where there are walkways connecting to another street. In fact, people looking to buy homes want walkways and bike lanes…anything that helps them get around without a car. A walking path INCREASES the value of a property.
And crime? Dean Park is one of the safest neighbourhoods in one of the safest municipalities in Canada! A person in Dean Park has a better chance of getting hit by a speeding car than having their home broken into (whether you live on a walkway or not).
I’m most disappointed in Council (not my neighbours). Council could easily have voted ‘yes’ to this walkway since it is already ’on the books’ and neighbours anticipated it would one day happen. This would have been an easy decision without political consequences.
The second proposal for a trail that councillors and mayor rejected was along a CRD water right-of-way that runs between the new school on Forest Park Drive, across the top of the Centre for Plant Health, across Dean Park Road and through numerous private properties to the border with Central Saanich.
At the meeting I asked Council to disregard the portion of the proposed trail that crosses private property – this would obviously not be acceptable. Instead, I asked them to consider the portion that runs from the school to Dean Park Road and I noted why this would make a wonderful addition to our neighbourhood: it would allow kids to walk from Dean Park Road all the way to school on the safety of a trail and it would give everyone at the south side of Dean Park a safe, pleasant way to walk to Panorama Rec Centre without having to walk down Dean Park Road or Barrett Drive, both of which are unsafe due to the lack of sidewalks and speeding vehicles.
In order for this to happen the Centre for Plant Health would need to give up a narrow strip of land across the very top of their property. A staff report (which recommended Council vote against the trail) said it might cost $25,000 for a fence to separate the path from the Centre for Plant Health. (Note that in August staff recommended Council spend $30,000 to create a few more parking spaces on Forest Park Drive for people dropping kids off at the new school…spaces that would be used for half an hour a day at most.)
One councillor also noted that the proposed path would run past three private residences and the owners probably wouldn’t want it.
So without considering the bigger good and the bigger picture, my request was turned down. Councillors were not even willing to explore the idea further with the Centre for Plant Health. Councillor Cairine Green dismissed a trail here as not worth pursuing since there’s already a sidewalk on East Saanich Road.
Yes, there is, but first you have to get there ! And as we all know, walking down Dean Park Road, Barrett Drive or Forest Park Drive is not a pleasant or safe experience, certainly not for young kids on their own.
I’m not sure where to go from here, since this Council doesn’t seem interested in helping us.
Ideas? Please add your comments.