By Stew Slater, Staff reporter
Despite the fact the location of the planned Stonetown X-Park was approved, in principle, almost a year ago by Town Council, there has not yet been any move by the Town to grant the required land use approvals for the facility. And, according to CEO Kevin McLlwain, the issue of parking is the main stumbling block.
“The resolution from Council was to approve the proposed location, subject to due diligence,” McLlwain explained of the Sept. 13, 2011 Council vote, in support of putting together a proposal to construct a facility for skateboarding and BMX biking next to the Fire Hall on James Street South.
Support from Council, he noted, was crucial to show the Town was serious about the project as it submitted an application for funding from the provincial government-supported Trillium Foundation. And, as councillor Carey Pope — the main Town representative on the group drumming up support for the X-Park — noted last week after it was announced the project would receive $60,000 from the Foundation, being able to submit a serious Trillium bid was crucial to enabling the fundraising group to approach potential business and corporate donors.
After last week’s Trillium announcement — as well as the presentation of a cheque for over $2,000 from the local branch of Scotiabank — Pope told the Journal Argus the group is now within $18,000 of its $150,000 goal. So the project is very close to becoming reality — when you look at its bank account.
When you look at a map of the Town, however, it’s not as close as X-Park supporters might hope.
“What we’re doing right now is, we’re finishing up that due diligence,” McLlwain said, referring to the September, 2011 Council resolution. “We’re also evaluating other potential sites, in case something comes up with the preferred site (next to the Fire Hall).”
The Fire Hall site, the CEO noted, “definitely has a lot going for it. It’s very visible. It’s very close to the schools. There should be a high usage factor.”
But he added there are also “obvious concerns, and those revolve mainly around logistics.”
With no on-street parking on James Street, the ideal arrangement would be for the usage of the St. Marys DCVI parking lot across the street. But the Fire Hall’s parking lot sits empty much of the time, and McLlwain concedes it will be a magnet to anyone driving to the X-Park if it’s located next door.
“You can say ‘Don’t park here,’ but if that’s the easiest place to park, they’re going to park there,” he said. And the problem is that, at times of emergency, the Fire Hall parking lot must be kept clear.
He added that other factors working against the James Street South location are the frequency of traffic on the road, and the proximity of the CN rail line. In addition, Fire Department representatives have expressed concern about the potential effects on regular firefighter training sessions in the vicinity.
Other locations under consideration, said McLlwain, include adjacent to the Tennis Courts on Water Street South, on the Pyramid Recreation Centre property, and Cadzow Park. Of those, he added, there are significant factors working against both the PRC and Cadzow options.
The CEO stressed, however, that the uncertainty over the X-Park’s location by no means suggests the project is at risk — especially since it has now been approved for a $60,000 boost from the Trillium Foundation.
“There’s a significant amount of money that has been raised for this facility,” he said. “It’s something that the community wants to see happen. It’s just a matter of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s on the final location.”