Centennial Park upgrades are underway, beginning with replacement of the aged washroom facilities and park drainage system.
The washroom building was closed earlier this week, and portable toilets have been set up in the park. Demolition is scheduled for the coming weeks. The Capital Regional District hopes that construction will be complete by the spring, and a tentative deadline of May 2019 has been set.
Dan Ovington, CRD parks and recreations manager for Salt Spring, said that the project will also include an upgrade to the drainage system which will benefit other projects planned for the park.
“The goal isn’t just to go in and demolish the park. We’re looking at replacing infrastructure only after it fails or becomes close to its useful end of life,” he said.
The washrooms were originally built in the 1980s and use heavy-flow toilets that are prone to failure. A new facility design was approved by the Parks and Recreation Commission in January and features environmentally friendly fixtures and toilets, as well as a gender-neutral stall. Crews salvaged any useable items from inside the washroom, such as the hot water heater and towel dispensers before demolition.
Construction has been delayed through coordination with other agencies on the island, pushing the deadline later in the year than originally planned. At Monday night’s PARC meeting, commissioner Brian Webster was concerned about having a construction site in the middle of the park during the market.
“I understand that things happen, but this is the very first step in the plan and it’s the one and only element that had no critics, except on the cost. This was the win,” Webster said in the meeting. “If it ends up that the timeline is into May, our credibility with the community for the playground part, let alone the other parts that are more controversial, is going to be lost.”
Though the project timeline puts its completion after the beginning of the Saturday market season, staff does not expect much disruption. The timeline allows for some flexibility and PARC will be pushing to have the project completed before the busy season.
“It is going to be slower at the market at that time of year, so I think if we have adequate porta-potties on site it should be fine,” Ovington said. “The goal is to have the washroom completed before the May long weekend when things really ramp up.”
Karla Campbell, senior manager for the CRD on Salt Spring, added in the meeting that if the project takes longer, “It might be an inconvenience that we’re going to have to live with, and that might come with some criticism, but that comes with managing these projects sometimes.”
The second phase of the park upgrades has also begun, as PARC approved the project charter for the playground replacement, with the intention that the timeline remains flexible. To help pay for the project, the Salt Spring Lions Club agreed to contribute up to $100,000, which brings the project budget up to $200,000 total.
“The thing that’ll take most of the time will be the consultation. We want to talk to kids, different caregivers that use the playground and the parks and do a pop-up [consultation] down there as well to get some more feedback, and then go from there,” Ovington said.
Commissioners were concerned about the prospect of having a construction site in the park over the summer, particularly since the bathroom project has the potential to run over its deadline. They discussed pushing the construction start date ahead to November 2019. Since the playground is near the bathroom construction site, and due to the fact that the current structure is in disrepair, Ovington explained in the meeting that if construction is pushed to later in the year, parts of the playground will have to be removed in the spring regardless of the timeline.
“The playground is in pretty rough shape,” Ovington said. “We’re looking at having to essentially remove the playground, so we need to have a plan for replacement.”
The rocking horse, which has been part of the playground since it was built in 1967, will be incorporated into the new design.