Hump Day: Moncton needs more neighbourhood recreational facilities

Hump DayHump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Recently, Moncton city councillor Shawn Crossman suggested that a revamped Moncton High site could include saving the auditorium and gymnasium and incorporating a new year-round indoor pool to replace the dilapidated outdoor one in Moncton’s east end that has now closed permanently. This was a much-loved and needed recreational outlet for young people in a low-income part of the city.

Unfortunately, he was met with what seemed like much derision. One proponent of a similar facility for the north end of Moncton even went so far as to call Councillor Crossman’s idea “disturbing.”

Disturbing? Really? Suggesting that a poor end of town that’s losing an important part of recreational structure have an opportunity to keep it while at the same time repurposing Moncton High School after it ceases its current life as a school? Is that really disturbing? Rape is disturbing. Wars are disturbing. Bullying is disturbing. Senseless violence is disturbing. Mr. Crossman’s idea? Not really disturbing at all.

Mr. Crossman’s suggestion (and it was just a suggestion) wasn’t disturbing by any means. It was proactive. It was throwing up a trial balloon. Sure, there’s the Crossman Community Centre-Kay Arena in the Lewisville area. That was an entirely different project to save a well-used arena and bring some recreational infrastructure to an under-serviced part of the city.

There are many naysayers about the new location for the new high school. I’m certainly not promoting the site as the best one possible, but at this point it’s a done deal. Fini! Construction has begun. It’s a go. It’s just reality. Now, focus should be put on making that school the best that it can be for the students who will be attending.

While it’s true that the Crossman-Kay Centre is a great facility, it doesn’t really serve the East End of Moncton. Those kids don’t play Lewisville Minor Hockey. If they play hockey at all, it’s Moncton Minor Hockey. Secondly, there is no pool.

The east end currently has two pools – one outdoor facility that just closed permanently and one at the St. Pat’s Family Centre – a centre that is aging and in the shadows of a large hospital that is probably drooling to acquire the property and turn it into a much-needed parking area.

Have you seen the atrociously long lineups of cars along Providence Street waiting for a parking space at the hospital from mid-morning to early afternoon? Between regular hospital visitors and patients going to the oncology centre for tests and treatment, it’s glaringly obvious that the Dr. Georges-L. Dumont University Hospital Centre is in dire need of more parking, especially in the Providence Street area.

I’ve heard many anecdotal examples of patients missing very important appointments because they couldn’t find parking. And even if you can find parking, how far can you realistically be expected to walk if you’re ill or elderly? The walk from the furthest corner of the parking lot near the old Vanier School to the oncology centre is quite a hike, some of it uphill, for someone who isn’t feeling up to snuff.

Like I said, if I were the hospital, I’d be drooling over the land occupied by St. Pat’s and the soon-to-be-vacated Radio-Canada/CBC building on Université Avenue. The hospital is in dire need of parking whether “anti-parking” people want to admit it or not. Let’s build parking structures, though, shall we? There’s no need for more wide expanses of surface parking. A multi-level, modern, safe parking garage with a connecting pedway to the hospital would be a welcome asset for patients and visitors.

So, what if St. Pat’s goes? What happens to the there’s-another-pool-in-the-eastern-part-of-Moncton argument then? Another community pool gone. More recreational infrastructure for that part of the city up in smoke.

Has anyone else other than Mr. Crossman got any brighter ideas for repurposing Moncton High — especially an idea that saves the gym and the auditorium and continues to attract people from the community? More condos? Perhaps — but I certainly wouldn’t want to buy a condo next to a train track. I mean, seriously. You’d have to be masochistic to do that to yourself. More apartments? No one in their right mind would build more apartments right now with the current sky-high vacancy rate.

So what’s left? Another cultural centre? In fact, there’s already one within a two-minute walking distance – the Aberdeen Cultural Centre. Can we really sustain two within just a few feet of each other? I’m not so sure.

Let’s not pit poor neighbourhoods against higher income neighbourhoods in this city. We’re smart enough and resourceful enough to walk and chew gum at the same time. If there are two worthwhile neighbourhood recreational projects on the books, then I’m sure we can figure it out as a community and both can be accomplished.

What’s truly “disturbing” in all of this is that a good idea seems to have been shot down because others are afraid of losing their new toy. Everyone says we need to get kids more active. Obesity and diabetes rates are alarmingly high. Yet, when someone suggests a possible solution to perhaps put dent in that phenomenon, their idea is called “disturbing.” If money’s tight, we’ ll find it. Determined people have done stranger things.

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