PUSLINCH – Boreham Park in Arkell might be small, but it’s planned upgrade is turning into a big issue for some residents.
At Puslinch council on Wednesday morning, Bruce Taylor and CNIB Foundation advocate Bernard Akuoko shared their concerns regarding the safety and accessibility of the park.
The playground area is surrounded by ditches as deep as six feet on three of the four sides, which are only 10 to 12 feet away from the play area, they said.
“If a child falls into those ditches, they could be seriously injured,” said Taylor, who is a member of the Boreham Park Committee of Concerned Citizens of Puslinch.
“Boreham Park is a park built on a stormwater drainage area. That's the root of the problem. It was never intended to be a park,” Taylor said in an email.
Akuoko, who is visually impaired, recently visited the park and found the ditches “quite alarming.”
He noted they could potentially harm the safety of other people in the community with disabilities, as well as children and seniors in general. At the minimum, he said it’s a tripping concern, and wheelchair users couldn’t even access the park because it’s not flat.
The pair emphasized their focus was only on the playground area and not the entire park.
For a playground to be accessible, Taylor said the ground must be firm and stable, and that the park is therefore not in compliance with the Accessibility Act, or the AODA principles of barrier-free, equal opportunity and inclusion.
“It is only flat and accessible on one of four sides,” he said.
“Currently, Boreham Park is a liability risk to the township,” Taylor said. “Prevention is always better than liability.”
To prevent liability risk and make the park safe and accessible, they want the township to consult with an orientation and mobility specialist, as well as CNIB before starting construction in May. Ideally, it would be reassessed for AODA compliance, a new drainage system would be installed, and the ditches would be filled.
“The point is, the Accessibility Act, which stands for safety, accessibility and barrier free, the ditches are a barrier.”
To do this, though, the construction scheduled to begin this spring would have to halt, and Mayor James Seeley was adamant it would continue as planned.
“It’s my objective to ensure this project doesn’t get delayed; that community down there deserves a new park,” he said.
He said the entire township was audited in 2020 and was deemed AODA compliant, and that there is no requirement to make the entire Boreham Park AODA, pointing to Riverside Park, which has a river running through it.
“There are inherent qualities of parks that make them not as accessible to everyone,” Seeley said. “The prospect of making the entire park AODA accessible is just not feasible.”
This wasn’t a fair comparison for Taylor, who said rivers are necessary but ditches aren’t.
Seeley also noted one of the members who approved the park was visually impaired, and was in support of the park reconstruction, which will replace the existing play structures with new, larger ones, and add more shaded space.
Still, Akuoko thinks they need to take a better look.
“I feel that they ignored what the issue was,” he said after the delegation. “Because right now that (park) is accessible to anybody, but it’s still dangerous.”
He said since the reconstructed playground will have larger equipment, there will be even less space between the play area and the ditches.
“So I feel like we didn’t really address the inaccessibility and the safety of the ditches for the disability community especially,” he said. “I think (they’re) dismissing a hazard that’s right in front of (their) face.”
He also said just because someone with sight loss approved the park, doesn’t mean they’re necessarily representative of everyone who the ditches concern.
“I really wish they would address that and actually come to the park themselves wearing blindfolds and navigating. I would like to see that,” he said.
“We hope they stand up for children, seniors, and persons with disabilities,” Taylor said of the council. “Disability rights are human rights. It is our duty to care for one another.”