Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Frustration Over Knowlton Park Delays

By Alex Roslin

Brome County News

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bill Watson’s daughters spent so much time at the old playground in the Knowlton Lion’s Park, it was almost a second backyard. The Watsons went there regularly for family outings and to walk their dog Winston. They celebrated birthdays there.

When Bill or his older daughter came to play soccer in the park, his wife could tag along with their younger girl and hang out by the swings and jungle gym.

The Watsons were heartbroken last year when the playground was dismantled as part of a plan to create a new play area behind the Centre Lac Brome community centre half a kilometre away.

“We were really sad when they dismantled it. I told the kids, ‘Don’t worry, they’re going to put it back,’” Watson said.

They’re still waiting.

A year later, the new playground behind the community centre still features only a lone jungle gym in a large open field dotted with several short saplings and a few scattered picnic tables.

Knowlton’s only public playground for preschoolers has no swings, teeter-totter, climbing apparatus, sitting benches or drinking fountain.

And that has parents like Watson frustrated. “It’s ironic that the town has this family policy, but there’s nowhere for kids to go now,” he said.

Some parents are talking about forming a group to seek better park facilities, raise funds for equipment and ask questions during this fall’s municipal election.

“When my daughter and I go to the new playground, there are hardly ever other children there,” said one of the parents, Shannon Brown.

“Having more games would bring more kids. I would love to see swings, trees that give some shade, a wading pool. Every park has swings.”

Back in March, the Lac Brome Recreation and Community Services department got approval from the town council to spend a $45,000 surplus on playground equipment at the new site. But those plans have been delayed by preparations for summer camp and the opening of Douglass Beach, said Johanne Morin, the department’s executive director.

The facilities are also on hold while the department works out a long-term plan for the entire park. The department has a “very rough” plan for the park for the next five years or so, but specific details need to be worked out, Morin said. “We realize it’s a priority for families.”

Morin would like to use the $45,000 for swings, a climbing apparatus or extra equipment for preschoolers, but she said the amount isn’t enough for all three elements.

And it’s still not clear when any of it would go up. “I’m hoping by the end of the year,” Morin said. She said the old playground was dismantled because most of the equipment was out-of-date.

But with another summer well under way, the slow progress is provoking frustration. “By the time they finish the park, our kids will be too old to use it,” Watson says. “If they weren’t going to do something at the new site, why didn’t they just leave the old equipment there?”

Knowlton dad Chris Pagé hopes to be able to contribute in a small way. This weekend, he and another father, Matt Willey, are organizing a ball hockey tournament at the skating rink, with proceeds going to the community centre for the park.

“There is a lot of potential for the park,” Pagé said. “But my daughter is getting to be the age where she is enjoying the park, and it would be nice to see more facilities there for her.”

Parents interested in working on park issues and family events can email BromeCountyFamilies@hotmail.com.

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