The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – Mar. 12, 2014
Change is scary. I get it.
It’s scarier when you have property value on the line, not to mention a vested interest in seeing things preserved. Willistead Manor and park is gorgeous. It’s easily one of my favourite places in the city.
On March 17 Windsor City Council will decide whether to install a 10-foot wide accessible pathway throughout Willistead Park at the recommendation of the Windsor Accessibility Committee and city administration.
Opposition to making Willistead Park more accessible is hands down one of the most unwarranted and mind-bogglingly offensive ’causes’ that a fair amount of Windsorites have taken up.
I spent much of my youth in Willistead Park, enjoying the vast green space in the midst of one of the nicest neighbourhoods in the city. It occupies a very special place in my heart and I would hate to see anything compromise the integrity of this place I, and so many people, hold so dear.
Having said that, in no way do I oppose accessibility improvements to the park. It pains me to think that there are residents of Windsor who are not able to enjoy the park in the same way that I have.
The city’s website claims the accessible pathways would be “looped through the park to enable users to enjoy all Willistead has to offer. The pathways will provide a safe, dry and accessible route for walking, jogging, using a wheelchair or pushing a baby stroller.”
In addition to the accessible pathways, storm drainage would be installed to “further enhance the usability and enjoyment of the entire park.”
After heavy rainfall, the park is essentially unusable until the vast amounts of water which collect evaporates. Those who oppose the pathway don’t oppose storm drainage whatsoever (this is made abundantly clear), what they do oppose is the full scope of the accessibility enhancements the interconnected pathways.
They believe that the city’s recommendation of 10-foot pathways are too wide and that if pathways are essential that they should be half that width and made of interlocking bricks. If the paths were limited in size they wouldn’t be wide enough to be deemed accessible and aside from the fact that interlocking brick is still difficult for those with accessibility issues to travel on, it would be far more expensive to do so.
A vocal opposition has taken to Facebook and has created a group to champion their cause. Save Willistead Park! hopes to to halt all construction until input from the disabled community is sought by the city.
Perhaps they don’t realize that Windsor’s Accessibility Committee is made up of volunteer citizens, disabled citizens and one member of city council, and its main purpose is to seek to eliminate barriers for persons with disabilities.
Members of the group claim that the true reason for installing the pathways is much more sinister than accessibility. They point the finger at what they believe to be the true culprit: Art in the Park.
And I’m not suggesting their hearts aren’t in the right place. These people love the park and they don’t want it see their gem broken; a commendable cause.
But for too long the park has been broken. Broken in that sense that is is not accessible. Willistead Park does not belong to the residents of Walkerville, but rather to the city as a whole. For this reason, the park must be made fully accessible.
Embrace the change, take the catharsis that comes with it, and find solace in the fact that if approved, Willistead Park will become accessible for all residents of Windsor, not just residents of the neighbourhood of Walkerville.
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.