Fenelon Falls could be getting a new city park with local fundraising help

By Kirk Winter

The property in question has been in the news for almost a decade after the city first decided in 2014 to declare the 2.5-acre parcel surplus and available for purchase by the public.

Kawartha Lakes is seriously considering turning a piece of city owned property on Juniper Street in Fenelon Falls into a public park with the help of local fundraising and promises from neighbours to assist in maintaining the property.

Jenn Johnson, manager of parks and recreation, presented to council at the Committee of the Whole meeting on April 4 the first step in a feasibility study that, with council’s approval, will move forward and complete a concept design that would include an estimated cost to complete the work.

“During this concept stage,” Johnson said, “community members will be provided an opportunity to comment on design and provide suggestions. This process is likely to take six to eight weeks to complete.”

The property in question has been in the news for almost a decade after the city first decided in 2014 to declare the 2.5-acre parcel surplus and available for purchase by the public.

In 2020, the Kawartha Lakes land management committee received a request from the Fenelon Community Housing Initiative to buy the property to develop affordable housing on the site. The sale was approved by the city in September of 2020, but for a variety of reasons the purchaser was unable to close the sale, much to the joy of Juniper Street cottagers and homeowners who fought hard against the building of a multistorey high-rise in the middle of their quiet residential community, preferring instead some kind of usable community green space.

After the deal with the builder collapsed, the city rescinded their surplus declaration and began to look for other uses for the property.

In July of 2022, the city began to consider the feasibility and cost of making the Juniper Street green space a city-owned park.

Talks with neighbours began in earnest in 2023 regarding what might be built.

Johnson reported to council that in February 2023 staff met with members from the Juniper Street neighbourhood.

“Comments provided by the community members during the meeting included a brief history of the property, current photos, and ideas and suggestions as to the future enhancement of the area. Some of the suggestions shared by the group included (the possibility of) a covered gazebo, benches (preferably natural looking, constructed from logs), raised garden areas (a dementia garden), bird feeding stations, sensory boxes, ‘I Spy’ boards (identifying animals, plants, trees, etc.), art installations from local artisans, pathways that are accessible and family friendly, access to/from Langton Public School, and hard surfaces that are permeable.”

“(They) prefer that a playground is not installed,” Johnson said. “(They would also like to see) the opportunity to incorporate programming for local elementary and secondary schools and an age friendly park that provides recreation opportunities for all ages and abilities. There is interest from this group to support the project by raising funds as well as assisting, where possible, with the future park maintenance.”

Anne Yorke, a spokesperson for the Juniper Street residents, presented a deputation to council at the same committee of the whole meeting “commending the new council for listening to residents.”

“We have achieved much in a very short time,” Yorke said. “We have fought hard to prevent that property from becoming an apartment block.”

Yorke singled out Ward Three Councillor Mike Perry and Ward Six Councillor Ron Ashmore for being so supportive of the park project.

Ashmore and Perry thanked the Juniper Street group for their hard work and looked forward to the park project moving forward.

Council is expected to vote on the next stage of Juniper Street’s transformation at the next regular meeting to be held on April 18.

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