By Kevin Werner • METROLAND WEST MEDIA GROUP
Confederation Park is getting a facelift that will attract even more people to the lakeside facility to participate in a variety of outdoor activities, including cricket, soccer, and hiking and walking on new trails.
“It’s amazing,” said Ward 5 councillor Chad Collins, looking at the proposed sport zone plans on the eastern end of the 93-hectare park. “It’s more than a facelift. It remodels the park for a future generation. It goes quite a long way to make the park more accessible to the public.”
During a public open house held Dec. 4 at the Lakeland Community Centre, city staff provided an update on the park’s master plan, which was approved by the Hamilton Conservation Authority and council in August 2010.
Over the last two years, staff has been focusing on what they are calling a sports park zone where the former campground was located. Plans are being proposed on the 5.8-hectare area for a tournament-size cricket pitch, two intermediate cricket and soccer pitches, a picnic area, upgrades to two washrooms that are located in the area, adding 1.5 kilometers to an existing trail system, expanding the forest, building a parking lot and constructing an entrance to the sports park from the North Service Road.
Lawrence Stasiuk, landscape architect for the city’s public works department, said residents insisted they wanted more green space, trails and natural areas for the park, and staff listened.
Stasiuk said the plan does not remove the natural buffer between homeowners living along Grays Road and the western edge of the park and there will be no sports lighting for the fields. He added that the parking lot within the sports area will hopefully relieve some of the parking pressure on area streets.
“We want to change the perception of the park,” said Stasiuk. “In the past, it has been operated by the HCA (Hamilton Conservation Authority) as a gated, restrictive use park. We want to expand the public access of the park.”
The sports zone area is just one piece of the Confederation Park transformation. The proposed master plan wants to create a year-round, multi-use facility for the public. It includes relocating the go-kart facility from the west end to a more central facility, eliminating the greenhouse, building a new main entrance at the end of Centennial Parkway, allowing public transit access within the park, partnering with the private sector to open up some commercial ventures and possibly having winter activities, such as an ice skating area. An initial idea to locate a hotel within the park was met by opposition from residents. That idea, said Collins, has been eliminated in the plan.
“I’m impressed,” said regular park user Ray Fullerton, who lives on the mountain. “They are protecting the natural areas. It’s a huge improvement. The campground was just dead space.”
Stoney Creek councillor Maria Pearson came away from the plans excited about the possibilities for the area. With residential development booming next door to the park, she was looking forward to an improved transportation system for Grays Road residents and a redeveloped park that residents can use.
“I know there are people who have asked me about building a cricket pitch,” she said. “And the natural areas will be great for people. I’m thrilled.”
Stasiuk said it will take a good eight months to provide the required detail design for the park’s plan. An economic feasibility study is currently under way for the entire park, while archaeology, topography and transportation studies have been completed.
“We need to determine how much commercial space the park can handle,” said Stasiuk.
He called developing the sports park, a “quick win” for the city. It is the easiest area to complete because the city, which owns the park, has control over it. The trails could be completed by late 2013, while the sports park proposal conceivably could start getting redeveloped in 2014. But he cautioned that the sports park may have to be done in phases depending upon the funding available.
The Confederation Park master plan projects will be in competition with the waterfront redevelopment for needed capital dollars in the future, he said. “We don’t have the costing of the project.”
Stasiuk said staff is expected to report to council later in 2013 to present an update on the master plan to politicians and ask for funding.
“Confederation Park is our poster child for the city’s strategic priorities,” said Collins. “I am determined to get the money from somewhere.”
Confederation Park attracts about 1,200 visitors a day and 250,000 in a year, said Collins. About 40 per cent of the visitors are from out of town. With the new amenities – especially cricket, which has been in high demand from area groups – more people will be using the park’s facilities. This year, the park eliminated its parking fees, providing another incentive for families to use the park.
“This will just grow the visitors exponentially,” said Collins. “This plan will make Confederation Park more open and accessible, just like Gage and Bayfront parks and not the barrier it has been in the past.”
City staff is encouraging people to view the proposed plans on the city’s web site www.hamilton.ca.