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Save The Park

UPDATE: The park was declared surplus land. This page is here for reference only.

The town has declared that the green space behind town hall/the library is surplus space, this was done so they can explore the options for selling and developing it. This page looks at the comments that I have heard from both sides and looks at possible solutions.

Modern Housing Project

Housing

We have a housing shortage across much of North America, Prescott included. Doug Ford encouraged us to build houses and to build them everywhere. Prescott and area have taken this seriously with new subdivisions planned around Prescott and discussions around tiny houses and garden suites. This lot could add more housing for a few families by sacrificing green space. This is an important goal that can be achieved in better ways. CLICK HERE FOR AN OVERVIEW OF PLANNED HOUSING PROJECTS

Access to Green Space

Access to high quality green spaces is essential for mental health, physical health, and for maintaining property values. This lead to a minimum required greenspace for all new developments. If we define the subdivision as "West of Edward St and South of the tracks" we will only have 2.9% green space. This park isn't currently high quality greenspace, we will look at that below. Increasing green space is also linked with reduced crime rates.

CLICK HERE FOR A STUDY ON THE PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF GREENSPACES WITH HIGH BIODIVERSITY

CLICK HERE FOR INFORMATION ON GREEN SPACE AND CRIME RATES

Park Bench
Money

Finances

Immediate and long- term finances are important for both the town and the individuals who live here. Selling this land would provide gains for the town from the sale and from property taxes.

Greenspace has a direct correlation with property values and with violent crimes. Decreasing the green space available could cause an increase in violent crimes that costs the town through policing and through lowered property values (and property taxes).

CLICK HERE TO VIEW THE EFFECTS OF GREEN SPACE ON HOUSING PRICES

Other Issues in Town

-We currently have an ageing population many are unable to drive and cannot walk long distances
-Low income compared to the cost of living

-Increasing drug/addiction problems

-increasing crime rates as stated in town council meetings in which they discussed installing cameras around town.
-An increasing percentage of Residents are unable to afford healthy food (34% of households are below the poverty line.
CLICK HERE TO VIEW A STUDY STATISTICS WHICH SHOW THAT 1/3 OF THOSE HOUSES HAVE FOOD INSECURITY IN ADDITION TO 18% OF TOTAL POPULATION)

Food Box Delivery

Solutions

Now we will look at a few solutions. There are many possibilities for meeting all of the needs mentioned above. It is my opinion that converting the park to housing will have too small of an impact on overall housing to be worth the other sacrifices. This leads me to focus on options that enhance the function of the park and look at creative housing options elsewhere.

The first solution I will discuss is about how the park could be turned into high quality and high value green space that meets many needs for many residents. There will be mention at the end about other locations in town that are suitable for additional housing. This is in addition to the subdivisions that are currently planned.

IMG_4133.jpg

(A quick drawing of a potential design)

6 gathering areas

This design includes 6 areas to meet various needs

1- A covered sitting area in the middle with direct access from the path

2- An open area to the right of the building for seating, permanent chess tables, etc, this is surrounded by flowering trees, great for group photos, small acoustic concerts, and art exhibits.

3- An area at the top that will be shaded by mature nut trees and standard (25-30') apple trees) with open space below for kicking ball, picnics, etc.

4- A Hardy Kiwi covered trellis on the left which will provide a cool shaded area

5- A grape covered trellis on the right serves as another retreat from summer heat

6- A small enclosed area at the bottom where parents can bring a few young children to read books, play, etc. This could have a gate for peace of mind.

Food Production

This initial design includes massive potential for producing high quality food for our community. The design includes:

- 37 fruit trees

- 50 grape vines

- 20 hairless kiwi vines

- 2 chestnut or heart nut trees

- 18 hazelnut bushes

- 150 fruit bushes

- 100's of herbs, flowers, asparagus, strawberries, and other plants

I have spoken to local church groups who would be willing to pick the food and either drop it off at the food bank or put it in a "Food is Free" display where people can collect food free of charge.

Spoiled fruits will be picked up by local small-scale farmers who will compost it or feed it to livestock.

Inviting for through-traffic

A park that is a destination is a great thing but in a busy culture it is beneficial to design parks in a way that invites people to pass through the parks. This is often done with straight lines for efficiency but adding curves encourages people to slow down and look around.

Curved paths also allow for places where we only see nature. There are a few spots where walkers will see no man made structures.

An abundance of bird houses of various sizes will further invite people to slow down in admiration of nature. Whether intentional or not, people will be partaking in a form of "forest bathing" which is shown to have positive impacts on health.

These paths keep the park reasonably accessible to all.

Sustainable Design

"Sustainable Design" is a word that has been made nearly worthless by improper use in marketing. This park design is "Regenerative" meaning that it actually improves  over time. 

The plantings are designed as an ecosystem with built in fertilization, pest control, and disease control. We don't even need to bring in honey bees because it will support countless native pollinators.

Watering needs can easily be met by using rainwater harvesting from one small portion of the municipal building's roof, eliminating inputs almost entirely.

Nature Haven

Wildlife photographers, ecological students, regenerative farmers, and nature-lovers alike will flock to this location for the biodiversity that it provides. 

Between the diversity of plants, insects, and birds, it will be a wonder for people of all ages. This will also serve as an excellent field trip location as teachers in local elementary and high schools are learning about nutrient cycles, food chains, plant interactions, flora, fauna, etc.

Not shown in the design is dozens of bird houses designed for various types of birds. These will also provide housing insects like bumble bees that build their nests in the leftover nest from animals.

You may come to pick some haskaps and apples and leave with photos of endangered butterflies on a flower and of a chickadee eating out of your hand.
Increasing the biodiversity in parks increases the positive effects on mental health
(View Study here)

A place for lazy Sundays

Whether you want to play a game of chess, read a book, or watch your kids play, there will be a place for you here.

Imagine you as a young parent, you take your kids into the library to pick out a book then walk around back to a quiet area. You close the gate behind you and sit down to read your book to one child as the other is getting almost as many blueberries in their mouth as they are on their face.

Imagine you as a senior with mobility issues, you are walking through town on a hot day and you enter into this park, you sit down under the kiwi vines and feel that it is a few degrees cooler in the park. This temperature change makes all of the difference as you recover for the walk home. You couldn't come this far before because it was just too hot for you. 

Imagine you are looking for companionship and walk into the chess area and find someone waiting for a game of chess. 

How do we pay for all of this?

Through the power of small-town community
Businesses and individuals each doing a small part to make a lasting change

(And with grants)

We have many amazing business in town and even more great citizens. 

I am willing to do my part. I can design the park, help with the installation, provide some plants for free and many others at cost (about $20 per tree which people will be able to buy on this website), and can run a timber framing class to build the structures and cover the costs of the build.

We have other businesses who may be willing to work at a reduced cost to do hardscaping, provide compost/soil/mulch.

We can fundraise much of the money. 

We can also apply for grants. I am on the board of the local Horticultural Society and will see what grants we may be able to access. We are making the space more accessible for seniors and there are grants available for that. We are installing a community garden and there are grants for that. We are creating pollinator support and there are sometimes grants for that. I also have an author I am connected with who provides funding for projects like this.

What about housing?

Housing is a big challenge. I address some of the current and planned housing projects here (click to open link in a new window). There a number of factors for this, it is an issue so lets look at some of the major causes: 

Immigration is one that people like to blame. We have had immigration into Prescott from other countries but even more so from places like Ottawa and Toronto as they see the appeal of our small town, often citing things like our green spaces and lower housing prices as reasons for the move.

Population growth is a massive factor. Our population as a species is exploding having increases from 2B to over 8B people in the last century, this naturally creates a demand for more housing. 

Single-Generation homes. For much of human history the bulk  of people lived in multi-generational homes, we trended away from that over the past century but it is starting to come back out of necessity, we currently have 35 multi-generational homes in Prescott according to Stats Canada's 2021 census. It used to be that kids would live with their parents and their grand parents, this reduces the need for additional houses, reduces the burden on retirement homes, reduces the number of hydro bills and Netflix subscriptions that each family pays, and splits the housework load. 

Decreased number of rental units. During the lockdowns we had two factors that worked together to cause a mass sell off of rental properties. These sell-offs left renters without homes and the houses were often purchased by new people moving to the smaller town. These factors were increased house prices and the closure of the landlord tenant board. The increased sale value was tempting for many, a lot of landlords had their hands forced when tenants stopped paying rent because they could not be evicted. Landlords had the choice between keeping a tenant who wasn't paying rent or selling the building for a massive profit; the choice was clear. As a landlord who decided not to sell I watched it happening time and time again and I did not blame them for the decision.  

The town and many regions have discussed the option of garden suites. These are essentially a second house in a back yard. Building a second house isn't cheap but it does provide the option for  it out for additional income. This could be rented to a stranger but it is also a great option for kids that are moving out. A $100,000-$200,000 home on your property saves them at least twice that amount in buying a home while also being available without competition, it could also be rented to them at a price that saves them money while still helping the parents as they near retirement. 

Sub-divisions. There are developments planned all over the place right now, they are in the pipeline and will provide very significant boosts to the local housing supply. (CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT PLANNED PROJECTS) These will also increase the demand for amenities like restaurants, retailers, and service providers. Note that these sub divisions will be required to maintain green spaces unlike what Prescott is trying to do within its own borders. 

Waterfront construction. It sounds like something may be in the works for the waterfront based off of what I have heard from a few informed members of the community. I proposed a style of building that would be completely unseen from King street and would look like a greenhouse from the walking trails. Some of this building could be used as a public greenhouse. The design that I suggested supplies 100% of its own heat through solar and geothermal systems but has backup heat; this keeps operational costs down. Waterfront isn't the ideal place for low-income housing because it is high-value land, instead this could be seniors housing, something well suited to a greenhouse setting where they can continue to grow food, have community, ang enjoy an incredible view.

A note on building in the proposed lot: The only use that would provide housing for more than a few families is an apartment building. This transitions us from a green space straight to high density housing. There are many reasons to dislike this option, I will repeat that a decrease in greenspace is directly correlated with an increase in violent crimes. An apartment complex is as far from green space as we can get.  I did mention in my communications with the town that there could be some tiny houses placed on the lot while still allowing for green space, this is a compromise on both sides.

In short: We have options that have recently been created but that haven't been taken advantage of yet (subdivisions, tiny houses, and garden suites) that will have a much more significant impact on housing. Meanwhile this park could become a massive asset for our community. 

Planning Process Videos

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