‘The public gets it”.
And with those words Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley explained why he didn’t attend the mid – June reopening of Centennial Park. Only a handful of people showed up for free food, free entertainment and speeches from dignitaries from Suncor, the Rotary Club of Sarnia Bluewaterland and members of Sarnia City Council.
Bradley, who was being docked a portion of his meager pay for supposedly harassing the City Clerk, attended the Aamjiwnaag Pow Wow where there was a large welcoming crowd.
Bradley told First Monday he was “saddened” to hear the crowd was sparse at the park noting that with Federal and Provincial support “the City spent $34,000.00” reopening Centennial.
Rotarians from the Bluewaterland and After Hours Rotary Clubs ran barbecues for those who did attend.
Henry Kulik, president of the Rotary Club of Sarnia Bluewaterland explained that two features of the remediated park include a new playground and the “Peace Garden”, a $150,000.00 25th anniversary project of the Club.
Kulik says during the planning process Committee members learned the value of parks and gardens to the health and social well being of individuals. He says Sarnia is fortunate to have access to many outstanding public venues.
The planning committee was made up of Rotarians John Hus, Lawrie Lachapelle and Dave VanLeeuwen and Kulik recognized all three.
Kulik also thanked the Mayor and Council for supporting the project by extending an interest free loan to the Club. The money will be repaid over the next seven years.
Bradley says while he is pleased the waterfront park is finally reopened he describes the amounts required for clean up and rebuilding as “shocking”. Originally pegged at six million the City is now $11.7 million into the project and it still isn’t finished. Boat ramps, removed last January still haven‘t been replaced and there isn’t a timeframe for completion.
And the Mayor says he looked at the garden area and thought, “it can’t be done”.
The Peace Garden, as it is being called bears little resemblance to what was originally proposed. Raised beds in wooden planters for those in wheel chairs have been replaced with Owen Sound ledge rock and are so wide disabled people can’t reach the planting beds.
John Hus, whose wife suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and was a leading proponent of the therapeutic garden says he is disappointed. He provided former Recreation Director Beth Gignac with photos and designs of a therapeutic garden in Guelph.
His information apparently was never passed along to current Recreation Director Rob Harwood.
Kulik believes the City was under so much pressure to get Centennial reopened that there was little thought about the Rotary Club’s involvement. “Rob inherited the project and his objective was to get it done,” says Kulik who suggests the contractor and consultant, Golder and Associates came up with their own design.
“What the Club wanted apparently got lost in the shuffle”.
Kulik says for the Club the garden was primary but the City put everything into the playground and “not enough thought went into this”.
Kulik says he intends to have a discussion with Harwood suggesting there is plenty of space in the park “to correct this”.