Despite cost to maintain, ‘tot lots’ will stay
Coun. Ken Christian has a legacy project in mind for city council.
However, in the words of one city staffer, if they tried it, “we’d all get hung.”
As council offered suggestions for the city’s updated parks master plan at a workshop on Tuesday, Oct. 23, Christian suggested it might be time for the city to sell off its “tot lots” — tiny neighbourhood green spaces — and use the money to create a parkland-reserve fund.
The small neighbourhood parks are expensive to maintain, Christian said, and he doesn’t think they’re as well utilized as they were back in the 1970s, when they were all the rage in city planning.
“I don’t think people are sending their kids to a lot any more,” he said.
“There are certainly little pieces of property all around the city that we are responsible for maintaining that are really under-utilized.”
Christian’s pitch didn’t find much support around the council table.
“I cannot disagree more with Coun. Christian on small parks,” Coun. Donovan Cavers said.
“I think small parks are very important, especially given our lofty goals for density and infilling.”
Cavers would like to see the city make more of an effort to add small parks to areas of high density.
City parks planner Mike Doll said the current plan is to get away from building tot lots because of the high cost of maintenance — but not to eliminate that practice completely or give up green spaces that already exist since it’s difficult to find land to build new parks in established neighbourhoods.
“I think if we ever tried to get rid of them, we’d all get hung, so it’s not a direction we’re looking at,” he said.
Overall, Doll said, the city is in good shape when it comes to the amount of parkland it has.
For every 1,000 people, the city has more than four hectares of parkland, about double the amount on offer in Kelowna — and that figure doesn’t include nature or provincial parks.
However, Doll added, the city will need to secure new park space in developing neighborhoods such as Batchelor Heights and Juniper Ridge.
The public is also clamouring for more waterparks, more off-leash dog areas, more picnic spaces and safer park spaces.
While Doll said he wasn’t surprised to find some people don’t always feel safe in the city’s larger parks — something the parks department plans to address with more lighting and other design tweaks — he said he was surprised to find some residents have the same problems in smaller neighbourhood spaces.