The Town of Hay River is moving ahead with plans to convert a would-be parking area in front of the rebuilt rec centre into a temporary greenspace.
The space, which could see planters and picnic tables dot the parcel of land that sits between the front of the arena and Woodland Drive, was greenlit following a vote by council on April 26.
The narrow corridor in question – bookended by a power box and traffic light – was originally designed to facilitate angle parking for up to 12 vehicles, but the area remains undeveloped and unpaved pending the completion of a full assessment of the property’s parking potential.
Council’s approval means that until that those findings are presented, the lane will be transformed into a short-term greenspace. If the evaluation, to be carried out by Town Hall administration, concludes additional parking spaces are needed, and the space in question is adequately accessible, then the area will be paved to make room for motorists visiting the facility. But both Mayor Brad Mapes and deputy mayor Donna Lee Jungkind have said they expect the assessment to show the area to be inaccessible.
There are currently 90 parking spots at the centre’s rear and 15 more in the front lot.
Coun. Steve Anderson, who voted in favour of the motion, told the Hub he’d like to see the space go green – for good.
“I really think it should be turned into greenspace and kept that way,” said Anderson.
Anderson acknowledged a lack of parking options on the premises, but said the proposed solution – adding angled spaces along the confined stretch of land – could pave the way for safety issues, especially given the presence of the power box, a fire hydrant and a nearby traffic light and intersection.
“For that area to be turned into parking – it might have been a good idea, but I don’t think it’s practical, particularly with the way the t-junction is configured and the traffic lights are configured,” he said.
Along with the risks associated with parking in the proposed lot, Anderson said a long-term public area featuring plant life would a welcomed return to a similar space previously seen at the old rec centre.
“I think where there’s opportunity we should definitely have green space in the downtown core,” said Anderson.
In the administration’s report to council, potential issues, including drivers having “little room to maneuver” in the proposed lot, as well as the possibility of damage to the front of the recreational centre building, are noted.
But Vince McKay, the only member of council to oppose the temporarily green space’s establishment, said the area should immediately become what it was designed to be – a parking lot.
“Realistically, temporary is never the case. We decide to do something and it usually ends up staying because rarely is somebody that quick to revert it back to what it was supposed to be,” McKay said, adding measures – including sloped sidewalks – are already in place to prep for the pending paving.
Answering to the report to council, which identifies a lack of greenspace downtown,” McKay said it “depends on how you look at it.”
“Downtown, yeah, there’s a lack of greenspace when it comes to lawns and trees … but the reality is … we’re surrounded by greenspace,” he said.
Depending on the outcome of the parking space assessment – expected to wrap up in the coming weeks – the proposed paving could potentially begin sometime next year.