Residents victorious in battle for park

Esquimalt residents have won back Denniston Park, and received an apology from municipal council.

Protest was swift among Grafton Street residents, after township workers used large boulders on April 19 to block access to a waterside concrete encasement and pathway, which the township’s insurance company said could cause bodily injury or death.

The boulders were to be removed by the end of today (Friday), though the walkway gate will remain locked.

“I feel council definitely felt the will of the people,” said Grafton Street resident Ian Black, who helped collect more than 200 signatures in support of the park. “It worked. We did our homework and we were ready.”

Despite their victory, Grafton Street resident Rosemary Denniston, is worried at how easy it was for a major decision to be made without public input.

“I think they’ve done this before, whether they know it or not,” she said.

Denniston was one of about 20 residents, including a delegation of children, who spoke at Monday night’s council meeting, sharing their sadness, frustration and hurt over the park’s closure.

“I felt like I was going to cry,” said Charlotte Hubert, 10, of her reaction to the park’s closure, one of six children who arrived wearing lime green Denniston Park fan T-shirts. “Please give us our park back.”

After more than two hours of discussion, Esquimalt council apologized to the more than 60 residents in attendance for a municipal staff decision that led to the park’s closure, and for the absence of public consultation.

Council maintains the work done at the park was done without their knowledge.

Coun. Meagan Brame said the situation has set back council’s efforts in the past two-and-a-half years to improve communication with residents.

“This has just shot that all totally out of the water,” she said at the meeting.

Over the next two weeks, workers will build a semi-permanent fence around an eroded area, of the park, as well as restore the path, steps and turf.

An open house will be held in June to solicit feedback from residents on park safety, the date of which has not yet been finalized. A follow-up open house will be held later to identify solutions, before the issue goes before council in the fall.

emccracken@vicnews.com

Did you know?

Residents have launched a new website to champion public parks in Esquimalt at weloveesquimaltparks.org.