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Canada’s largest playground in Mooney’s Bay Park needs public consultation

May 24, 2016 @ 12:27 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

By now, you’ve probably heard about the plans to build Canada’s largest playground in Mooney’s Bay Park. In case you haven’t, here’s a quick summary: Sinking Ship Entertainment approached the City of Ottawa a few months ago with a proposal to build an enormous playground in Mooney’s Bay Park as part of a reality television series on TV Ontario. Timed to be ready in time for the festivities celebrating Canada’s 150th birthday next year, the playground would be built largely by kids volunteering. The not insubstantial costs will be split between the City (up to $960,000 according to an email from the ward representative) and the production company. Giver, the TVO program, is running a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to raise $150,000 (of which $770 has been pledged as of 1pm on the 23rd of May, including at least $250 from people who work on the show).

News of this was only made public a few days ago because “the matters being negotiate between the City and the proponent were embargoed”. City Council members and staff were prohibited from talking about this prior to a few days ago.

There are a number of large festivals, including the HOPE Beach Volleyball and the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, which have been long-time users of the park. Over the years, these two festivals alone have raised over $7.2 million for local charities, not to mention the postive impact they’ve had on local tourism. As a participant in the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival since 2001, I can report that there are teams that come from out of town to participate.

You’ll note that I haven’t said anything about public consultations or even discussions at Council (at least discussions not held in camera). That’s because they haven’t been held. Yet.

Apparently, there will be some sort of public open house held in early-June, but given that some trees have already been removed and there are reports that more will be removed in the near future, it will essentially be a fait accompli.

My questions as a taxpayer are:

  • How much will this cost us in the long term? This runs the danger of becoming a white elephant once its novelty has worn off.
  • Why does River Ward get a huge playground investment when the rest of the wards don’t? Or are similar investments planned for playgrounds in other wards?
  • What are the rules surrounding “embargoed” projects? Is the City involved in other proposed projects like this from the private sector that could cost us millions that we aren’t aware of?

I have other questions, which I may raise later.

Rick Chiarelli, College Ward councillor, apparently stated the following in a recent email:

1) Mooney’s Bay has been designated an “active” – not passive – play area for decades. The Mooney’s Bay play element has been monopolized by adults for many years but, following extensive public consultation, the site has been slated to expand its active play FOR CHILDREN for over 15 years.
2) There is no option to simply move the subject playground to another site as the money that is coming from the private sector to make it possible is being offered ONLY if it is at Mooney’s Bay.

Addressing his first point: There is a large play structure currently in Mooney’s Bay just south of the building in the middle of the park. Yesterday evening, while I was dragon boating, I noted that the play structure was being used by lots of children. To suggest the park has been “monopolized by adults” is nonsense.

Addressing his second point: Suggesting that the private sector gets to call the shots on this simply because they are holding a bag of money is worrisome. It sets a dangerous precedent for future projects being proposed by the private sector. If the private sector money wasn’t there. the project wouldn’t be built, at least not on the scale that is being proposed.

What needs to take place immediately is the following:

  • site preparation, including removal of trees, stops;
  • a user survey of the current site be conducted/updated. The last major study apparently pre-dates the move of the Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival to the site, for example;
  • an environmental impact assessment be conducted;
  • a transit/parking impact study be conducted. If this structure ends up being as popular as predicted, will there be enough parking available on-site?
  • a proposal to relocate the Sue Holloway Fitness Park, which is located exactly where this new structure is going to be installed, be drawn up and made a permit condition should the playground project end up going forward;
  • a cultural heritage study for the iconic white bridges be conducted. They date back to at least 1965 when there was a network of waterways in that portion of the park, as can be seen in this photo from the 1965 airphotos imagery on geoOttawa:

Lastly, proper public consultation openhouse sessions need to be held. Just because a private sector company walks up with a bag of money doesn’t mean that the City should cave to their demands.

Mercury transiting the Sun (part 2)

May 09, 2016 @ 23:55 By: gordon Category: Astronomy, Photography

The photo I posted earlier is a bit small. I downloaded the photo directly from my camera to my iPad and I think it lost some quality in the process. I’ve reprocessed it and some of the other photos to see what I could find.

This is one of the better photos I took:

Mercury transit

Inside the circle is a tiny dot that is the planet Mercury. You can click the image to see a larger version.

I managed to take this photo by using my 18-200mm lens fully zoomed, holding a piece of #14 welder’s glass in front of the lens and experimenting with the exposure until I found a combination of shutter speed and f-stop that wasn’t massively overexposed. No tripods, no telescopes, just handheld while sitting on a bench in front of the building I work in. I’m sure this looked very odd to the people walking past, but who cares? They didn’t end up with a picture of Mercury transiting the Sun.

Mercury transiting the Sun

May 09, 2016 @ 13:27 By: gordon Category: Astronomy, Photography

I brought my DSLR to work along with my piece of #14 welder’s glass in the hopes that the sun would be visible at lunch. A small break in the clouds allowed me to capture a bunch of photos, including this one:


I believe the small dot in the bottom right quadrant is Mercury. Or dust on the sensor, but it’s appears in more than one photo taken on different parts of the sensor, so I think it’s Mercury because it matches the maps I’ve seen.

Fort McMurray fires

May 04, 2016 @ 13:06 By: gordon Category: Current affairs

Fort McMurray in northern Alberta is surrounded by massive wildfires that may well engulf some, or most, of the city of 90,000. The photos and videos from people fleeing are unreal. I can’t imagine what they must actually be feeling as they’re going through this. I wish them well.

The Red Cross is accepting donations to support their relief efforts. You can donate online.

Weekend geocaching wrap up

April 27, 2016 @ 16:53 By: gordon Category: Geocaching, Out and about

So, I had a busy geocaching weekend.

Read the rest of this entry →

Statues in the river

April 26, 2016 @ 12:47 By: gordon Category: Diving, In the news

A story on CBC caught my eye this morning. Basically, the Thousand Islands chapter of Save Ontario Shipwrecks is lowering concrete statues into the St. Lawrence River near Brockville to give divers something to hold onto other than the shipwrecks when they’re diving. Wooden shipwrecks are much more fragile than they look, so any contact with them contributes to the overall deterioration of the wreck. Shipwrecks near Brockville are popular dive destinations, particularly for new divers who may have not yet mastered buoyancy control, especially in a current.

When I was actively diving, I was a member of Save Ontario Shipwrecks and served on their board of directors for a few years. The group is dedicated to the preservation of underwater cultural heritage, which includes shipwrecks, submerged villages and structures like the old canals in the St. Lawrence River, and things like old aboriginal fishing weirs. Their activities included training divers on how to properly record shipwrecks and the like, outreach activities to encourage people not to remove things from shipwrecks (that’s illegal in Ontario), and special mooring buoys so that boaters don’t have to drop an anchor near (often on) a shipwrecks. Installing these statues is a creative solution to the problem of divers touching the wrecks. Well done, guys!

Seriously? Snow in the forecast? Why?

April 25, 2016 @ 15:31 By: gordon Category: General, Weather

Have we done something wrong? I just took a look at the aviation forecast for Ottawa and am a bit unimpressed as result:

TAF CYOW 251738Z 2518/2618 30007KT P6SM BKN220 
 FM260000 VRB03KT P6SM BKN160 
 FM260600 05010KT P6SM OVC090 
 FM261100 07012KT 3SM -SN OVC060 
 FM261500 06012KT P6SM BKN120 
 RMK NXT FCST BY 252100Z=

As you can see in the line I’ve highlighted in red, there’s light snow forecast between 7AM (1100Z) and 1PM (1500Z).

If this actually happens, the morning commute will be insane as everyone has forgotten how to drive in the snow by now. Some of my coworkers have had their snow tires removed, too.

I know that the snow won’t hang around, but I really really really don’t want any more snow. (Ever.)