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North Perth council endorses conceptual plan for Listowel Memorial Arena Park

North Perth council endorsed the preliminary design of a park to be constructed at the site of the Listowel Memorial Arena on Monday night. (North Perth council agenda image)

NORTH PERTH – Following much discussion, council endorsed a conceptual plan for the Listowel Memorial Arena (LMA) Park project at its March 8 meeting and directed staff to bring back a report outlining a fundraising plan to help fund a portion of the project.

In November, SHIFT Landscape Architecture was engaged to provide consulting services for the park development at the LMA site. The general scope of the project was to develop a design with visual renderings, a construction plan, including timelines and cost, and a maintenance guide to ensure the prolonged success of the design.

“There was a lot of public engagement, engagement with Friends of 59, the recreation advisory committee, members of council and staff involved with this process,” said Amy Gangl, manager of programs. “Even though it was in a virtual format, we’re very pleased with the public input and responses we received.”

The Recreation Advisory Committee said they are pleased with the report that has come back from SHIFT and they feel it represents the public input and comments which were received.

“During the discussion, it became very clear to us that the space should foremost be focused on honouring the eight lives lost in 1959 with some type of memorial but beyond this, something that we heard was that it is also important to create something that brings the community together,” said David Duhan, landscape architect with SHIFT.

An important theme in the plans was how to maintain the multi-seasonal social aspect of the arena in the area.

The desire for a dog park was voiced by some residents. After consultation with the recreation department, it was suggested other park locations may be better suited but understanding the public’s desire for a dog park, staff plan to bring this topic back to council.

The final plan for the park developed in consultation with the community has an enhanced circulation system designed to satisfy the community’s strong desirefor multiple walking paths.

The form maintains the main circulation path that reaches each corner of the site, establishing four entry points. Additional walking paths were incorporated to provide alternative routes for strolls.

The final concept includes a sensory play area. It is intended for the secondary path to be an extension of sensory play materials, such as flagstone, limestone screenings, or other materials which may enhance the idea of sensory experience.

A Survivor’s Grove sits across from the sensory play area with a view of the open lawn. The Survivor’s Grove has seating, including a harvest table, underneath tree canopies providing a serene space for individuals or intimate groups.

The memorial feature of the sculptural boards and hockey skates is included in the final concept as a result of the abundant support expressed by the majority of community members in the design options survey. The memorial is designed as a conceptual system that features the LMA centre ice marker and eight flowering memorial trees.

The walking paths are carved out of a meadow landscape and move through a progression of trees. Moments of shade will be dispersed throughout the park, due to high canopy trees casting shade on the seating berms, Survivor’s Grove and memorial space. Trees line the oval-shaped lawn to mimic a forest edge and create a sense of enclosure around the open space.

The existing vegetative screen along the south edge will remain and become densified with additional trees to separate the park from the neighbouring residential properties. Two rain gardens are located around the natural low point of the site, specifically the northern edge of the memorial space, to capture potential water runoff.

The border of the park along Maitland Avenue incorporates a plaza space that can hold small community events such as markets. The paved space is bordered by seating berms that face the adjacent baseball fields for spectators to watch games or simply rest. The design of the wide-open edge is intended to be an opportunity area for socialization.

The final concept offers a generous amount of parking which will also support the Listowel Curling Club.

Coun. Matt Richardson asked whether materials from the LMA could be repurposed as features of the park.

“Items such as the changing room benches – there are a couple of old features there that we are looking into converting into park benches as a possibility through detail design,” said Duhan. “Other items that have come up, the floor itself and the centre ice marker – the contractor is removing that piece of concrete so we’ll be able to put that somewhere on the site.”

He said there also the opportunity to look at a few blocks from the original building that are still standing. Some of those things are dependent on how the demolition proceeds and if they remain salvageable.

Duhan also said that discussion with the demolition company also allowed concerns about access to water for an outdoor skating rink will be addressed. The current water access can be capped off in such a way that it remains accessible for future use.

The comments from council about the design and the consultation process SHIFT engaged in with the community were overwhelmingly positive. Concern was raised over the issue of a fundraising campaign attached to the report from Gangl.

“I note you have a second part of the resolution which is staff being directed into developing a fundraising campaign and I’m a little bit uncomfortable with that part of the resolution at this point,” said Mayor Todd Kasenberg. “I think what we need is a report brought back to council that proposes a fundraising plan and campaign and if you could set targets and timelines as well.”

Gangl said the recommendation was made as a starting point for council discussion.

Kasenberg also raised concerns over work hours staff will have to put into fundraising and maintenance of the park considering recent concerns raised over municipal workloads.

“That was a discussion and that’s partly why some of the things you see chosen in there… some of the different grasses that do not have as much maintenance were chosen and how they would look,” said Gangl.

Coun. Julie Behrns suggested that instead of approving the report, it be received because a more detailed report will be coming back to council.

“I wouldn’t want to get into a sticky wicket situation where something that is going to be proposed later on … and then you constantly have to come back and get amendments because it wasn’t in the original report,” she said.

“Thanks, Coun. Behrns, I was contemplating the same thing because approval is a pretty firm action on the part of council and it’s still a little bit ahead of where we’re at,” said Kasenberg.

At CAO Kriss Snell’s suggestion, council received the report, but endorsed the concept plans and directed staff to bring back a report with a few scenarios fundraising campaigns to help fund a portion of the LMA Park project.

The estimated cost for the project is $1,103,678.50.

Colin Burrowes is a Local Journalism Initiative Reporter with the Listowel Banner. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.