Monday, November 10, 2014

The nonsensical protest around Hillside Park

Protesters against paving Hillside trails, ironically standing on a spot where they've already been paved for a decade. (photo credit: James Jackson)

I recently read about protests against plans to pave the trail surface in Hillside Park, and I am disappointed. While the residents of Ferndale Place raise a legitimate concern about how city staff notified people about upcoming work, the complaints that a few unhappy citizens are bringing forward just don't make sense. 

One complaint is that upgrading the trail surface will ruin this park as a natural gem. As a daily user of the park, I can attest that the park is a beautiful natural oasis, but less than two years ago it was a muddy construction zone filled with heavy earth moving equipment. If the park can survive a sewer replacement, it can withstand a paved trail.

Sewer reconstruction in Hillside Park: where were protesters then?

Furthermore, worries about "environmental damage" completely ignore the current reality. I saw gravel trails washed out by stormwater three times in 2014 alone, and countless times before. After each incident, heavy vehicles truck in tons of new stone and sand to repair dangerous washouts that are sometimes a foot deep. With each new storm, this material is spread into meadows and silts up the creek. A hard trail surface will permanently solve this problem and prevent injuries.

Storm runoff gouged this gravel trail down to the foundation layer in 2014.

What is lost in these protesters' message is how Hillside Park's degraded, loose gravel trails make it inaccessible to many in our community. Paving the trails will improve accessibility for all: in wheelchair or mobility scooter, with stroller, as well as on bike or on foot. Virtually every other city park provides paved trails without diminishing the natural environment, including Forwell Creek Park which directly connects to Hillside, so that they are not a barrier to those of us who struggle with mobility challenges.

The concerns of a few residents who don't want any changes need to be weighed against the needs of everyone. Accessibility must trump aesthetics. Hillside Park is a public space, not a private backyard.


  1. Hi Mike, thanks for sharing. I see the validity of your points quite clearly. It looks like the reason for the protest is a result of misinformation/lack of information. "...concerns of a few residents who don't want any changes need to be weighed..." The issue I take it is that they weren't weighed. Do you believe that more could have been done to provide the information from your posts above before today avoiding all this trouble?

    1. This is Chris, the blog author. Maybe you came here via Mike's tweet. Anyway...

      The consultations that have gone on for this project include a September 2013 "trails improvement" consultation and another consultation in Nov 2013 where the city confirmed that it planned to pave Hillside Park's trails as it is an important part of its "Waterloop" project. I attended these consultations and you can find my commentary on them under the "hillside park" tag on this blog.

      These protesters are unhappy they were not consulted. This Record article ( ) indicates that the city did direct mail notification of the consultation sessions to residents whose properties back on to parts of the park where work was going to take place. I know that some of those residents attended.

      Some of the people objecting simply live near the park, or adjacent to the stretch of the park where paving is not taking place. For them, they would need to catch one of the city's announcements for consultation, and that's not easy.

      So, you could argue that at least the entire adjacent neighbourhoods should receive a notification for a project like this. Though it's hard to say exactly how far you should notify people. After all, I am also a park user an a stakeholder of this project and I live in Kitchener!

      I think the simplest thing the city should have done was prominent signage at the park entrances itself with lots of advance notice, so the users of the park-- no matter where they are-- would be aware of it.

      As it stands, these protesters are blowing it wildly out of proportion. Their rhetoric makes it sound like the entire park is going to be paved flat. I can understand their frustration in not being made aware of this work, but it is no excuse for this behaviour, and it is really disrespectful to the opinions of people who did participate in the consultation process.

    2. I'm sorry Chris; yes, I did get here from Mike's tweet.

      And thanks for clarifying and your time. It sounds like you're right about the signage as a good solution going forward on top of the mailed notifications. The notifications are ineffective for folks who use these services but don't necessarily live in the direct vicinity. Whether we agree with these protests in this respect or not, always important to engage each park stakeholder so these things can be avoided. Personally, I feel $10,000 is a lot of money to have wasted because of delays that could have been avoided. And while some of the blame goes to the protesters, I also believe the city has something to learn from this too in respects to engagement.