Today’s city council, for all its glaring imperfections, made the right decision when it decided to pour more money into the controversial Centennial Park revamp.
Don’t get me wrong. I think the redevelopment has been an exceedingly frustrating process. It’s been going on for four long years and we still don’t have a boat ramp. More than that, the original cost has ballooned from $8.7 million to $12.8 million. If a business was run this way, the CEO would have walked the plank long ago.
Still, I believe the latest decision to pour another quarter of a million bucks into the project was the correct one.
When I think of Sarnia, the pluses that come to mind are its parks. I have been to many countries across the globe and very few of the communities I have visited can come close to matching what we have in terms of open space.
Simply put, our parks system is splendid. And the crown jewels are Canatara, Mike Weir and Centennial. Without any one of them Sarnia would be sadly diminished.
All three were created by people with vision.
In the case of Centennial, it was Mayor Henry T. Ross who was the driving force behind its development. Others wanted to build a community centre to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday in 1967. But Mayor Ross insisted on open space along the river, saying it would be of more value to future generations. And he was right. Had we built a community centre half a century ago, it would likely be a dump by now. It might even have been torn down. Buildings erected in those days don’t seem to have been built to last.
I remember talking to former Sarnia Hydro Commissioner Jim Harris about Ross. Harris said, “He was a visionary. He was always looking down the line 10 years.”
In his four years at the helm, Ross was instrumental in the creation of Centennial Park, a new city hall and Sarnia Public Library. He was no longer in office when Centennial opened, but it was his baby.
When problems were discovered in Centennial a number of years ago council had two choices. It could wash its hands of the park and walk away, or it could fix the place.
Fixing it was never going to be easy. It was contaminated with asbesto, lead, oil and other industrial crap that had been dumped onto the 38-acre site many decades ago.
There was also a need for new shoreline protection, something that is always very costly.
Over the past year or so Mayor Mike Bradley and Counc. Dave Boushy have been among the best councillors most nights. Not that there was much competition.
But on this issue they are dead wrong. Voting against the latest infusion of cash into Centennial was a mistake. Simply put, fixing up such a priceless asset was the right thing to do.