Posted September 21, 2021
Neighbours of the Dominic Agostino Riverdale Community Centre say they’re fed up with the state of its park area, including the “rotting” picnic tables, torn fences and wooden benches with rusty rebar sticking out of weed-filled flower boxes.
Fatima Malik, who lives in one of the eight apartment towers in the area, said litter is also a problem because the park has a single garbage can and no recycling bin.
She said nearby Warden Park, located to the southeast, is much cleaner and she can’t understand why this one is being neglected, especially since it’s also used by students from neighbouring Lake Avenue Elementary School.
Hamilton’s public school board owns the park property, but it’s maintained by the city.
“People from my community, we gather here often and bring food and we do sit down and eat together, but this place, honestly, looks very, very dirty and needs to be fixed. We want everyday cleanups,” said Malik, who has three young children.
“It is dangerous,” she said, pointing out a picnic table with a loose, rusty metal supporting beam that could scratch someone taking a seat. “Kids are playing around, there are poles sticking out (of flower boxes) and broken fences. Someone could get hurt.”
Malik joined a handful of neighbours for a Sept. 14 afternoon protest at the park co-ordinated by the Hamilton branch of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN).
The national non-profit group advocates for people in low- and moderate-income neighbourhoods.
A 2012 study by the Social Planning and Research Council of Hamilton identified Riverdale as having Hamilton’s highest proportion of recent immigrants, nearly double the city’s poverty rate and triple the average of people identifying as a visible minority.
“The park looks like a dump,” said protester Liz Scott, who lives in another nearby apartment tower, identifying garbage and children’s safety as her primary concern.
“The picnic tables, if families decide to have a picnic, the wood is rotting. They could get splinters,” she said. “You’ve got little ones picking up anything and everything.”
Scott said she wants more garbage cans and a recycling bin, daily cleanup, more trees to provide shade, a water fountain or bottle-filling station and a bigger play structure — the current one has four swings, two slides and three small climbing walls.
She said she’d also like the city to increase the play area by getting rid of two cricket cages whose fencing is torn.
The cages were opened to much fanfare six years ago, with the city agreeing to maintain them until June 2033.
“I’ve never seen anybody play in it,” Scott said. “I’ve seen kids hang out in it, but not play in it.”
City spokesperson Emily Trotta said staff is reviewing whether to repair or remove the cricket-cage fences, and that the wooden benches will be replaced with high-back concrete benches this fall.
She said one of the picnic tables has been replaced since the Stoney Creek News inquired about their condition, while the play structure is being scheduled for replacement in the 2023-24 capital budget.
As for litter, Trotta said work crews clean up the park whenever they cut its grass and the garbage can is emptied three times a week.
“Level of park maintenance is not determined by the affluence of its neighbourhood and play structures are replaced based on several factors, including its age,” Trotta said.
School board spokesperson Shawn McKillop said unlike many other school properties, the city and board don’t have a formal agreement on maintaining the Agostino community centre’s park elements.
“Board and city staff recognize the need to develop agreements on these attributes and have it on work plans,” he said.
Article by Richard Leitner for Hamilton News