Will Caron climbs a sun-dappled dirt path surrounded by poplar and birch trees, pointing out the hill where his two kids slide in the winter.
If the Sudbury Catholic District School Board has its way, the City of Greater Sudbury-owned land will soon be levelled for the construction of soccer field adjoining a new, 550-student elementary school in behind St. Charles College.
“For our family, we're talking about the loss of the only park within walking distance of our neighbourhood,” Caron, who lives on Claudia Court, right across the road from the city land, said.
“My kids use this park to ride their bikes through, they walk their dog here and they sled down the hills several times during the week.”
The school board has proposed to trade 60 metres of the city land for 60 metres of its own land, in behind St. Bernadette's Catholic Elementary School, which adjoins the city property.
The land the school board wants to give the city is a gravel play area dotted with rocks, a couple of trees and a rusting baseball backstop.
The loss of part of the parkland isn't the only concern citizens have.
The school board is also proposing to extend Courtland Drive, currently a dead-end street, through its property out to Hawthorne Drive.
It would also like to extend Hawthorne right out to Falconbridge Road. There's currently a connection between Hawthorne and Falconbridge in behind St. Charles College, but it's a private drive.
Both road extensions would greatly increase traffic, Caron said. He said the school board could reconfigure its site plans so that it would have plenty of access to the school off of Falconbridge Road.
“As a neighbourhood, we're looking at giving away the best part of our parkland — the part we use the most,” Caron said.
“We're looking at increased traffic because they're looking at opening up Hawthorne Drive and Courtland Street all the way to Falconbridge Road. “What we get in return is decreased property values, loss of the enjoyment of our property and a pile of rocks.”
Eric Yeomans, who lives on Hawthorne Drive, close to the city land, said he thinks the school board's plan “sucks.”
He said the school board could use the soccer field at St. Charles College for the children at the new school, and the road extensions are unnecessary.
“Don't ruin our neighbourhood for your sake,” he said. “Just leave well enough alone. If it's not broke, don't screw with it.”
The new school, which has yet to be named, will house junior kindergarten to Grade 6 students from three schools set to close — St. Bernadette, St. Raphael and St. Andrew.
Grade 7 and 8 students from these schools will attend St. Charles, which will be retrofitted to accommodate the extra students. The $12-million building is scheduled to be completed by September 2014.
The school board recently held a meeting to inform residents of their plans for the city parkland, and about 60 residents showed up to voice their concerns about the development.
Another meeting, this time organized by Ward 8 Coun. Fabio Belli, is scheduled to be held at St. Charles College June 6 at 7 p.m. Both the school board and the city will be speaking at the meeting.
Dennis Bazinet, the school board's superintendent of business and finance, admits the quality of the land being offered in exchange for the city land “is not identical.”
“When you look at the back end of our St. Bernadette property, it is a hill that has a bit of rock, lots of gravel and a few sparse trees, compared to a greenspace, which would have a few more trees.”
Bazinet said the school board would be willing to regreen its land before swapping with the city.
He said the extra soccer field is needed, as there's going to be 550 more children attending school in the area, and they need a place to exercise. The city land is needed to make the field regulation size.
The facility “would be a new field for the city as well, because we have a joint use agreement with the city and Sudburnia soccer,” Bazinet said.
In terms of the plan to extend the roads, he said this is being proposed to improve traffic flow around the schools.
At this point, though, everything is still a proposal, Bazinet said. He hopes a win-win solution can be developed.
“We tried to communicate that to everybody as well,” he said.
“Whenever you're looking at major development, you have to start somewhere. We're now in the discussion stages with the community and residents, and looking at whether or not any alternatives can be considered.”
Posted by Arron Pickard