Walking through Cadboro-Gyro Park, nearby resident and park user Elizabeth Borek gestures to the dirt and gravel pathways bordering the playground and promenade.
“Why can’t they just leave it the way it is?” she asks. “Why does it have to be black asphalt?”
The park is currently being upgraded after several years of public consultation, and the approved plans ruffled the feathers of quite a few area residents. The upgrades to the park include relocating the iconic playground equipment – like the giant octopus – onto more stable ground, improving drainage and realigning and upgrading pathways to allow greater accessibility for walkers, wheelchairs, strollers and motorized scooters.
Borek and several other members of the community and the Cadboro Bay Residents Association had expressed concerns multiple times to the Saanich parks department regarding the proposed design, including the use of asphalt and the width of the accessibility pathways.
“They call it a path, I call it a road,” says Borek of the proposed five-metre path. “My brother was in a wheelchair, so I’m certainly supporting accessibility, but that’s overboard.” She says the paved pathways and hard surfaces in the proposed plan would ruin the park. “The very reason that people go there is going to be destroyed. I don’t want to see this park desecrated by black asphalt.”
In response to concerns regarding using asphalt for the pathways, Gary Darrah, Saanich’s manager of park planning and design, explained to the CBRA board in an email that asphalt is “smooth, easy to install, durable, drains well and is inexpensive to maintain. In addition, it is fairly elastic and flexible which suits the ground conditions at the park very well.” He added that “it’s true that when asphalt is first laid it is quite dark but quickly fades to a light grey,” and said they plan to use more decorative colour and texture patterns for the pathways to mitigate what would “otherwise be a fairly utilitarian piece of infrastructure.”
Last week, the CBRA and Saanich parks resolved the long-standing conflict, and OK’d a revised design for the main wide path, and the main pathway leading into the park. Instead of the original five metres wide, the paths will now be 3.7 metres.
CBRA board chairman Eric Dahli, in a statement on the CBRA website, said that the narrower pathway “addresses our concerns and we look forward to the completion of (this) project.”
The improved accessibility was long overdue, says Mayor Frank Leonard, and despite the obvious benefits to the community, he said he’s been faced with roadblocks the entire way.
“I’ve been wanting to upgrade that park for 28 years, and always run into neighbourhood opposition,” he says. “It’s about making it accessible to people whether they’re the grandparent, the parent or the child. It’s a new standard we want to set with our parks.”
With the support of the CBRA, the roadblocks seem to have been cleared away so that all members of the community can soon enjoy the park.
“I have members of my family who have accessibility challenges,” Leonard says. “I’m looking forward to them all using the park. They haven’t been able to in the past.”