City botched bike park
| Posted: Saturday, Mar 16, 2013 06:00 am
Given the public’s opposition, there is no conceivable way the proposed mountain bike skills park can be built at Liberton Park, and the blame for this situation – for the consternation and concern of Lacombe Park residents and the disappointment of park proponents – falls squarely on the shoulders of city administration.
Almost every city councillor was on hand as 150 residents of Lacombe Park shredded every single argument any bike park proponent could make for building it at Liberton. It is unfortunate – a group of young people has conceived this idea, applied themselves to it and come very close to bringing it to fruition. A park like this does have a place in our community, just not now and not in the location proposed.
But the failure of this project is the fault of administration and its inadequate public consultation process. Yes, city officials solicited some opinion, but the homeowners of Lacombe Park were never consulted. The city held two open houses with members of the bike skills park committee. Notices were mailed out to people living around both proposed locations – Seven Hills and Liberton – but the notices did not mention the locations by name. Ads placed in the St. Albert Gazette also did not indicate the locations being considered.
As a result, attendance at both open houses was sparse and the bulk of criticism came after the public consultation period had closed. It was Seven Hills that drew almost all of the scorn, with residents and parents able to organize using Greater St. Albert Catholic Schools and École Father Jan as focal points. In Liberton there was no such representation, so even when council rejected Seven Hills as a location, no one had yet heard from anyone about Liberton. Administration said all “stakeholders” had been consulted, but that’s the problem with bureaucratic buzzwords like “stakeholders” – no one really knows who the word describes.
It is hard to criticize administration because, unlike members of city council, such city workers cannot defend themselves publicly. But the process that was used to consult with the public was incredibly flawed. If residents around Liberton had been consulted, if either location had been mentioned in any of the city’s advertising, residents would not have had to organize themselves in protest and there might not be another disappointing delay for such a worthy project.
Our youth, as Coun. Wes Brodhead told the crowd Thursday night, are worth this project. It is not, as Coun. Malcolm Parker intimated, a waste of taxpayer dollars or, as Gord Hennigar of the St. Albert Taxpayers Association boldly said, a poor idea because youth and young adults in St. Albert don’t pay taxes. The city has set the money aside for successive years. Young people got involved in city affairs and brought this to life. There is a group ready to fundraise for some of the costs.
This park might not belong in Liberton, but it does belong in St. Albert. Let’s hope the city can do this right next time.