Neighbourhood park still awaiting safety fixes

By Wes Smiderle

Despite a safety audit in 2017 and minor repairs since then, safety issues in Alvin Heights Park continue to accumulate. A railing has been torn off a staircase near the wading pool, while paint has been splashed on nearby benches, picnic tables have been painted and a recently-planted tree was cut down. Last summer, a sign was installed to identify Alvin Heights Park more clearly. Photos: Wes Smiderle

On any given day, there’s activity at Alvin Heights Park and it’s easy to see why.

Compact and well-shaded, the park is set snugly among the residences of the Yule Manor Housing Co-op along London Terr. There are swing sets, play structures, a basketball net and, further up-slope, a wading pool with picnic tables and a set of field house.

In many ways, Alvin Heights is an ideal urban park. As a bonus, it’s steps away from London Terrace Park, an open field that often hosts children’s soccer games.

However, the park has also been neglected. Many of the park’s features once considered amenities have been red-flagged as safety issues or simply aren’t up to standards.

In 2017, at the request of the Manor Park Community Association (MPCA), a community safety audit was conducted on the park, and the stretch of London Terr., by the Women’s Initiative for Safer Environments (WISE).

Safety issues were identified at over a dozen areas, including in Alvin Heights Park and surrounding neighbourhood. The safety issues in the park include:

  • Old playground equipment that does not meet accessibility standards
  • Unlit area between the pool field houses
  • Park and pool area is “run-down and has not been maintained”
  • Sand underneath play structures used “extensively” as a litter box by cats (wood chips have replaced sand in most playgrounds)

Other safety issues cited for the general area are a lack of crosswalk between the park and the London Terrace Park field, the lack of a sidewalk along the length of London Terrace (the current sidewalk only extends from to the park) and speeding cars.

Michele Proulx, who has lived in the area for 15 years, notes a pathway extends in a roughly straight line from the top of the park down to where it meets London Terr. Kids on bicycles a have temptingly smooth downhill to ride through the park and then cross London Terr., which can be cluttered with parked cars during the summer when the field is being used for soccer games.

“We are so lucky we haven’t had a child run over her.”

According to Mary, the park had been identified as a priority by the city to be essentially completely upgraded and brought up to code either this year or in 2023.

However, nearby Hemlock Park, which is in good shape and with relatively few safety concerns, has since been prioritized over Alvin Heights.


Some fixes

Since the WISE audit was compiled, two fixes have been implemented by the City of Ottawa. Lighting was increased to improve visibility and a sign identifying Alvin Heights as a public park was installed.

MPCA Community Outreach Chair Mary Hickman noted that some other cosmetic fixes have been implemented, including repainting the field houses, the swing sets and the basketball pole, with a new backboard installed. The thick greenery blocking the view of the park from London Terr. was trimmed back while cracks in the asphalt have been repaired and the concrete around the wading pool has been parged.

However, these were all maintenance-level fixes, and some didn’t even last long. Although well-used, the park is also sometimes used roughly. Picnic tables and benches have been splashed in paint while a tree planted by the city last year was sheered down to a stump.

Further, a railing leading down the steps from the field houses has been torn away, creating more safety issues.

Mary and Michele worry that problems will continue piling up and, as residents see the park deteriorating and nothing being done, treat the area with less respect.