ReFrame 2021
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Arthur News School of Fish
'Save Inverlea Park' sign on a lawn in the neighbourhood. Image courtesy of Megan Nicholson-MacRae.

Save Inverlea Park

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December 15, 2020
Save Inverlea Park
'Save Inverlea Park' sign on a lawn in the neighbourhood. Image courtesy of Megan Nicholson-MacRae.

On Friday November 27, a small crowd gathered at the Southwest corner of Dennistoun Ave and Parkhill Road West to protest the naming of Inverlea Park as a potential site for a municipal firehall. 

The contested land, described as “vacant” by a city-issued, externally investigated land report, would occupy up to forty percent of the neighbourhood's cherished park. Inverlea is part of a public land trust left in Charlotte Nicholls' will in 1891. A recognized historic site, the park was home to Peterborough's local museum in 1897, and, in 1938, was bought by the city on the grounds that it would be used for “park purposes” only. Today, the park remains a popular outdoor space for the Northcrest neighbourhood. 

In June, Peterborough’s Manager of Facilities and Planning Initiatives published an assessment to finalize a shortlist of three favoured sites for a new firehall, one being Inverlea. The assessment, led by Dillon Consulting of Toronto, uses a handful of indicators to evaluate the potential of each site. “Land Use” and “Compatibility with Neighbourhood” are considered the two least important indicators. The outside consulting firm not only favoured locations that would come at no cost to the city, but also disregarded key issues with the Inverlea location. Most notably is the fact that Inverlea is situated on the border of two neighbourhoods that score “below” and “well-below” the desired parkland quantity based on a 2019 assessment of Peterborough’s open space.

Map from the City of Peterborough's 2019 Municipal Parks and Open Space Final Study

Adjacent to the park, residents of Dennistoun Ave decorate their porches with homemade posters in opposition to the proposed firehall. Hans, who has been raising his children nearby since 1999, told me he still witnesses an abundance of family picnics, yoga classes, and even cross country skiing! But it’s not only neighbours who believe Peterborough’s reckless approach development has left them without means to participate in important community decisions. 

Councillor Andrew Beamer acknowledges that “neighbours whose homes surround the three proposed locations [for the firehall] will naturally have strong feelings one way or another.” However,  after speaking with students of Trent University, it is clear that the matter warrants concern not only from homeowners, but from community members whose relationship with the city is transient in nature. “We are confined to our houses right now, and the park provides a safe and affordable space to hangout: how has Peterborough not considered that?” urges Natalie Vaughan, who attended the protest in solidarity. Evan Bates, a nearby resident remains in disbelief that the park could be considered for this very reason: It really is an equity issue. Obviously those who own property in the area are directly affected, but ultimately, this will hit hardest on renters who don’t have the luxury of a backyard.

Now in question is not only the future of a historical park, but the legitimacy of Peterborough’s planning department. Why have conversations with outside consulting firms, rather than community members, been at the forefront of this evaluation? Has the preservation of heritage in Peterborough been defeated by its own development goals to expand? If the city that prides itself on public waterfront use doesn’t feel it has an obligation to consult the public about paving over a riverside park, we have a responsibility to demand it. 

You can email swrightt@peterborough.ca and abeamser@peterborough.ca (Northcrest Ward Councillors) to demand that Inverlea is taken off the shortlist of potential sites for a municipal firehall. Also, get your friends to sign the petition. Additionally, you can email johngoaliebruce@sympatico.ca to order a “SAVE INVERLEA PARK” lawn sign to show your support for vital green and recreational spaces in Peterborough. 

Inverlea Parkgoers in the 1960s


ReFrame 2021
Teaching Awards by The Centre for Teaching and Learning at Trent
Arthur News School of Fish
Sponsored
ReFrame 2021
Teaching Awards by The Centre for Teaching and Learning at Trent
Arthur News School of Fish
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