Victoria Mayor Marianne Alto and other city staff helped to debut the new playground at Stadacona Park on Saturday.
It’s a park that has had its own degree of controversy over the last few years.
Near the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Victoria allowed 24 hour camping at the park, but in May of 2021 that was changed to 12 hours, which meant tents had to come down at 7 a.m. each morning.
However, residents say that was not the case, with some saying they felt unsafe entering the area despite the bylaw change.
“It was just terrible to have the park the way it had been in the neighbourhood,” said area resident Joan McGorman on Saturday.
“We didn’t feel safe walking in the park or bringing our grandchildren here.”
An X account (formerly known as Twitter) called Save Stadacona Park was launched in response and has been pressuring the city to step up enforcement in the area. While the city isn’t ruling that out, they are waiting to see the result of the improvements.
“I think we’ll cross those bridges when we get to them,” said Alto. “We’ll see how this unfolds and obviously it’s the first day. So we’ll be watching very carefully and we’ll do what’s necessary.”
For now Alto and council hope that the new playground and work done to the trails in the park encourages families to return and make use of the new playground.
“We have lots of issues to deal with, of course, around unhoused folks and we’re dealing with those as we can with our partners, let’s be clear,” said the mayor.
“But this particular park now has been redesigned to be primarily a public park that’s designed for play and so that’s what we are going to be focusing on,” she said.
Keeping the area a safe environment for families is something that park users hope continues past opening day.
“It needs to be clean and safe for all the children and everyone in the neighbourhood,” said McGorman.
“Try and have some areas where the campers can go safely for themselves and safely for the community,” added Ralph McClure, whose grandchildren live in the area.
It’s just another chapter in the ongoing housing crisis as Victoria looks to move away from sheltering in place in parks.