*EDITOR’S NOTE: This article originally stated 26 playground zones were being removed. It has been corrected to state 41 playground zones are being removed.
Edmonton city council took a second look at the playground zone rules Tuesday and agreed to scrap 41 zones that were under review and approved an amendment allowing councillors to suggest adding or removing individual playground zones in their wards.
The motion asked the administration to amend bylaws that would remove certain playground zones and redefine the location of playground zones. Councillors asked administration to gather data that would help determine the best operating hours for the zones.
Councillor Tim Cartmell said he was “quite pleased” with what was passed.
“We took administration out of that role of managing. It was the previous council that made the choice to simply apply these in a one-size-fits-all blanket perspective.”
No changes to playground zones will be made immediately. A report will come back to council in August recommending a process for determining how to add or remove zones. The zones will be formally removed after a public hearing and after new bylaws are introduced. The changes will be made by the start of the next school year.
“It’s a tidy-up of the handful that perhaps shouldn’t have been included in the first batch,” Mayor Don Iveson said. “But we’ve learned from it. And some will be removed.
“This council is trying to find the right altitude with city administration. I’ve seen a trend with some of our decisions to really go down into the details.”
Next year, council will address whether to change the playground zones provincial guidelines for playground zones, or whether to go with seasonal hours. The extra time is needed to gives officials more time to analyze data.
Right now, in a playground zone, the speed limit is 30 km/h from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.
“It’s going to take a while longer to deal with them,” Councillor Michael Walters said. “But to take some time and doing it right this time, unlike our approach the first time, is the best way forward.”
The motion also suggested the city’s parameters mirror the province’s criteria regarding playground area locations and speed limits.
“We have some new people on council that are asking some different questions and more… to ensure the safety of their community,” said Gerry Shimko, with the office of traffic safety. “So it’s all positive.”
“I think they want to get better clarity around those particular zones. I think you’ve heard some councillors really want to apply some of that local knowledge and make sure it gets covered off,” he added.
Cartmell thinks the city had good intentions but rushed implementation of the more than 400 playground speed zones.
“There’s a certain propensity for city to not to take the time to do it right — but always take the time to do it again. We’ve seen this a few times now, and I would like us to learn from this lesson,” he said.
WATCH: Edmonton councillor Tim Cartmell thinks the city rushed its playground speed zone implementation and says more than two dozen zones could soon be removed. Kendra Slugoski filed this report on April 19, 2018.
Cartmell represents the growing southwest Edmonton Ward 9, which is full of new schools and parks used by young families.
Last month he conducted an online survey and received almost 1,200 responses in under a week. He said the results show most people agreed speed must be lowered to keep kids safe, but the hours are a problem.
When asked to pick the best solution to address current concerns, the largest group of people — 34 per cent — picked reducing playground zone hours from 8:30 a.m. to one hour after sunset, which is the Alberta government standard.
Walters said it’s a divisive issue.
“It feels to me like there’s consensus that we need to tweak the playground zones, reign them in, be more explicit about a playground is where playground equipment is,” Walters said. “A playground is where you have space that’s primarily used by children and school zones. So I feel like we’re pretty clear on that.”
Earlier this year two locations in south Edmonton — W.P. Wagner School at Wagner Road and 86 Street and L.Y. Cairns Junior High School at 106 Street and 45 Avenue — were reviewed and the city decided to remove their playground zones.
— With files from Global’s Fletcher Kent