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‘Dotmocracy’ helping with redesign of Centennial Park

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Cathy Dobson

The opinions of the 50 people at the most recent meeting about redesigning Centennial Park were displayed in polka-dotted technicolour.

About 150 ideas expressed during a public meeting in May were written down on Bristol board, so attendees of the June 9 session could stick coloured dots beside the ideas they support most.

The public process is helping refine the proposal written by city staff for the key waterfront park, said parks and recreation director Beth Gignac

Staff’s vision for Centennial once a major environmental cleanup is finished include: a rotunda with stage area, a new children’s playground, new washrooms, change rooms, a snack bar, relocation of the boat launch and “sculptural landforms” interwoven with pathways.

All this, plus the cleanup, is expected to cost $5.5 million, a figure already approved by council.  If new things are incorporated something else will have to go, says Gignac.

Popular ideas supported by the “dotmocracy” exercise included another boat launch ramp, water stations on the pathways, a fish cleaning station, more shade cover, a splash pad, and an off-leash dog park.

When an off-leash dog park was mentioned, about one third of the audience broke into applause. But city staff noted a number of dots were strategically placed to not have an off-leash dog park as well.

“You have to remember that Centennial Park is like a backyard for a lot of folks living downtown,” said Gignac. “The final design needs to be thought of as a 365-day-a-year design. It’s for special events but it’s also for the people who live here.”

A large number of dots supported accessible facilities and a split public pathway to keep “wheeled” traffic to one side.

“The most important aspects in my view are sufficient parking, permanent washrooms, a fish cleaning station and two to three boat ramps,” said Dave Brown, general manager of Sarnia Bay Marina.

Getting all of Centennial Park open quickly after a three-year cleanup is essential, he said. “But it’s also imperative that we do it right.”

Brown said he was surprised just 50 people attended the meeting when thousands use the park.

But Gignac said she’s received dozens of emails from people who couldn’t make the meetings. The public still has a chance for input by emailing [email protected] by June 27.

On June 29, the third and final public meeting is planned at Sarnia Bay Marina, starting at 6:30 p.m., to discuss the most popular ideas.

The aging Dow People Place is set for demolition in the next few weeks and the existing children’s playground will be brought down shortly.

It’s hoped the entire park will reopen by the fall of 2016, Gignac said.

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