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Affordable housing trumps bike park


  |  Posted: Saturday, Dec 01, 2012 06:00 am

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I like biking and the outdoors, but $200,000 of public money to build the proposed mountain bike challenge course in Liberton Park or Mission Park (Seven Hills) stirred some unsettling thoughts as I read the article “Bike park unveiled to public” in the Gazette of Nov. 24.

The first mental jolt was the cost. Is it necessary to spend this amount of public money on something that is designed for a limited number of biking enthusiasts? I can appreciate their passion for their activity but if they wish to have their exclusive sandbox to play in, they should tap into this passion and find the necessary resources to fund their toys.

The City of St. Albert should be applauded in its efforts to provide many first- class recreational facilities for its citizens, including many miles of trails for walking and biking. City council has been very generous in allocating funds for many of these facilities that go well beyond the scope of needs. I will admit, wants are nice to have, but so is a Mercedes as compared to a Ford. Let’s start putting our money where our mouth is, when it comes to servicing the basic needs of this city.

I just attended the St. Albert Housing Society’s Homestyle breakfast fundraiser and was impressed by the spirit of goodwill and solidarity of purpose in providing needed affordable housing for many hard working St. Albert citizens and families, who are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table. I believe that it is more important to empower and enable families to feel secure in a suitable, affordable home and put healthy food in their lunch boxes than more sand and toys in an exclusive sandbox. Should not the priority of affordable housing for these people take priority, when it comes to the spending of tax dollars? Is there not an ethical imperative, rooted in our pioneering spirit and Canadian identity that should invite serious reflection, when answering this question?

Two hundred thousand dollars would go a long way in addressing the Housing Society’s need for $1.5 million in providing additional affordable units in their Big Lake Point Project.

My second but more muted growl was provoked by the suggested locations of the bike park. Why is there this obsessive compulsion by current urban planners to look at an unoccupied piece of land as wasted space and see it as a potential for some dreamed-up project? Unless there is a basic need for this space to serve, leave it alone. Let the kids use it as a free, open area, where they can dream, safely run, roll, slide in the grass or snow and play with their own creations rather than be encumbered by an over-programmed site.

Wilf Borgstede, St. Albert


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