Downtown grass will stay park

Under the town centre development plan from a decade ago, the area was supposed to have a hotel, but that never materialized.

Council wants to use the federal and B.C. dollars, so it doesn’t lose them, to fix up the patch of grass beside the leisure centre downtown.

But it wants staff to dig a little deeper and come up with some more precise scenarios on what the future holds for the space on 224th Street, just north of the Zellers parking lot.

Under the town centre development plan from a decade ago, the area was supposed to have a hotel, but that never materialized.

See Park, p5

Park from front

The district held an open house May 16 to see what the public thought.

“Results suggest there’s a strong desire to keep the area as a park,” public works general manager Frank Quinn told council Monday.

Eighty per cent favoured developing the area as a family-themed public space, based on a survey question.

Monday, council backed the idea of improving the area – better drainage, lighting, sidewalks, bike facilities and a large paved area that could be used for festival events or loading and unloading.

That would allow the district to use the $400,000 it has left over from the downtown enhancement project, which saw the rebuilding of 224th Street. Only a third of that is Maple Ridge’s money. The balance, however, has to be used by Oct. 31, otherwise it goes back to the senior governments.

Council, though, wavered on the first part of a recommendation, calling for “multi-phased” plan using ideas raised at the open house.

“What are we trying to advance here?” asked Coun. Cheryl Ashlie.

How would development of the space fit in with the district’s other plans, what’s the best use of the property? she asked.

Ashlie said a spray park, as suggested in one of the open house comments, would make the place an instant attraction for the young families, but how would it fit with events such as the Haney Farmers Market?

She told council that when she was living in Vancouver, the spray park on Granville Island was hugely popular with families who often took over the place early in the day.

“If you do it right, they will be there.”

Coun. Judy Dueck also supports a park, but was concerned about the financial impact of giving up potential revenue by not developing the site.

A broader discussion involving landscape architects and the entire community should happen, said Coun. Al Hogarth. He suggested creating a task force to come up with some long-term plans.

The mayor, though, said people valued the property as green space, and there’s not much in the area. That will become more valuable as the downtown densifies, he added. There’s a lot of social benefit to keeping it for public use, said Ernie Daykin.

“There’s such huge potential for the area around that.

“We have an opportunity here that we don’t want to lose.”

One idea proposed by the Maple Ridge Historical Society is to locate the new Maple Ridge Museum, whenever’s it built, on the site, instead of the present location on 224th Street, just above Haney House.

Coun. Mike Morden pointed out museums are often located in downtowns in major cities.

District recreation staff will meet with the society to discuss that further.

The open house had 46 people sign in, while 83 surveys were completed.