Petrolia’s CAO says the town will have to take a serious look at the concerns raised to develop the backyard of the Oil Heritage District Community Centre.
At budget time, as the municipality was laying out its 10-year plan for capital projects, it talked about a $1.7 million plan for everything from ball diamonds to tennis courts and a splash pad behind The Centre on Tank Street.
Councillor Ross O’Hara first voiced concerns about the idea, mostly due to the cost. At a public budget meeting Monday, other residents also raised questions. “Why are we not dropping money into the parks we have, why are we going to spend that money in that industrial zone,” asked one man. “The amount of work you have to put into it – why not putting it into Greenwood Park.”
Another asked about the wisdom of putting a park near an industry which emits odour. “Has a study been done on the odour from Henry that you’re going to put a park right beside it,” asked Paula Hoskins. “I live on First Ave and it takes my breath away.”
Kevin Shaw agreed. He wondered if the hope was a backyard complex would bring more people to The Centre. “I probably wouldn’t take my kids there – the Henry company smells – I’m not going to take my kids there.”
And others weren’t just concerned about the smell. “There are open oil wells on both side of Tank Street,” says Jim MacLachlan. “I’m concerned about the safety of the kids.”
CA0 Manny Baron says administration had heard the concerns about the cost of the project and had already scaled it back.
While the concept is to build a number of different sports fields, for now, he says, the only thing being proposed in the near term is an accessible playground and some work to clean up the fields used for track and field events and the Oil Slick Challenge are held.
About $368,000 of work is planned. Community groups have already raised $88,000 for the playground equipment.
But he says after listening to the residents at the public meeting– half of whom he estimates spoke out against the idea – the plan will have to be reviewed. “We do listen and clearly there is some feedback tonight that we shouldn’t put it there,” he told The Independent after the meeting. “Obviously about half the people who spoke had a problem with it – and we’re listening.”
Mayor John McCharles added that before anything would move ahead, there would b e a full public meeting to hear concerns and ideas.