May 2, 2019 5:57 pm
Updated: May 3, 2019 10:53 am

Monctonians band together in effort to preserve Centennial Park ahead of nearby development plans

More than 30 people attended a public meeting to discuss concerns about a development near Moncton's Centennial Park that would result in the loss of trees. Callum Smith has more.

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A group of Moncton residents says they’re concerned about the future of Centennial Park.

Several people said they were shocked to hear of development plans on private land next to the park that would “accommodate a mix of land uses to include residential (space), a local private college, future commercial development and parkland,” according to the development proposal.

The land next to the park, known as Franklin Yard, is between Firebreak Road and Millennium Boulevard.

But residents say a buffer zone of trees isn’t enough and that the development will take away from the feel of the park.

READ MORE: Mixed feelings about renovations at Moncton’s Centennial Park

The city says no trees will be removed within a negotiated 20-metre buffer zone around the park.

Courtesy: City of Moncton

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There are concerns that some trees could be lost as a result of development plans.

“I thought, ‘We really need to do something’ because I know there’s a lot of people in this community and a lot of people who utilize this park who have a great concern for it and love it,” said Erik Gingles, who created a Facebook group called Friends of Centennial Park and organized a meeting with locals on Wednesday night.

When a public hearing was held at the start of January, Ian Scott presented his concerns to councillors.

“It takes away from the feeling of a park, and nobody wants to go cross-country skiing right beside a parking lot,” he said after Wednesday’s meeting. “It’s going to make the park feel a lot smaller and it’s really a gem for the city and it’s going to be a real loss.”

Gingles says he’s spent countless hours at the park over the years with his family.

“It just seems, in the last couple of years, that the city or different developers are sort of picking away at the corners and the edges of Centennial Park,” he said. “The trees are thinning out, (and) you’re hearing the cars more.”

WATCH: Concern is growing about the last remaining community outdoor pool in Moncton

Isabelle LeBlanc, the city’s director of communications, says it’s about striking a balance.

“Through the rezoning process, the city was able to gain an additional 20-metre tree buffer where we will see no trees being taken down,” she said. “That is in order for us to be able to expand the park a little bit and to keep the park feeling along Firebreak Road.”

Isabelle LeBlanc, Moncton’s director of communications, says the city wants to reiterate that the land is not city-owned.

Callum Smith / Global News

But people at Wednesday’s meeting raised concerns about the loss of green space near the park, safety issues and the impact any development will have on property values.

Many people worry about the possibility of future plans sacrificing the integrity of the park.

“The park really is for the enjoyment of the people of Moncton,” Gingles said.

Last July, trees were cut down to relocate a pool, and some people were disappointed about losing more green space.

Gingles hopes to create a formal group to help preserve the park moving forward.

“We can talk to the city as one voice to say, ‘If you’re going to make changes or something like that, talk to us first to see what kind of compromises or, perhaps, alternatives we can come up with,'” he said.

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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