Dufferin News Municipal Shelburne

Shelburne Pushes Ahead on Jack Downing Park

Jack Downing Park in Shelburne, Ontario
Jack Downing Park in Shelburne, Ontario

The Town of Shelburne is moving forward on its commitment to improving Jack Downing Park.

At the Shelburne council meeting held on May 10, 2021, the Town’s Chief Administrative Officer Denyse Morrissey presented a report on redeveloping Jack Downing Park and the estimated increases to project costs required to enable the project. 

The Town initially budgeted its portion of the Jack Downing Park improvements to be $20,000. Community members’ volunteering labour and donating materials for the park were intended to cover the rest of the costs. As with many fundraising and volunteer activities, the COVID-19 impacted the ability to achieve that objective. The CAO’s report suggests increasing the project’s budget to $56,000 and funding it from the parks and recreation levy reserve.

“Unfortunately COVID has seriously impacted those kinds of approaches, particularly the use of volunteers,” stated Morrissey. “And as many may know, the price of lumber and wood has increased over the last year to the point where a $20,000 budget would not allow us to proceed with the scope of park redevelopment that we had envisioned.”  

Jack Downing Park was named after John Robert “Jack” Downing, a celebrated community builder and champion of the arts in the Town of Shelburne. In 1998, Downing advocated for the municipality to buy the closed-down gas station across the street from the town hall and create a downtown park. According to the CAO’s paper, Downing raised about $34,000 to purchase the land and an additional $52,900 for the park’s development. Volunteers also donated time and labour to build the park, enabling it to open officially in June 2000. Last year was the 20th anniversary of the park, and the Town is looking to enhance the park and ensure that it continues to be a prime fixture for years to come.

Shelburne’s Mayor Wade Mills was confident that the taxpayer would not have to bear the entire cost for the redevelopment. Mills iterated how the initial funds dedicated to the project were intended to be seed money, and he has received indications that community partners would cover additional costs. Councilmembers communicated that they did not want to see the parks and recreation levy fund depleted for the initiative, as the parks and recreation master plan was expected soon. 

“If Mr. Downing, in the years proceeding 2000, was able to raise over $86,000, I’m sure, in 2021, we can raise $56,000,” asserted Shelburne’s Mayor.

Mayor Mills presented a motion, seconded by Councillor Walter Benotto, to increase the Jack Downing Park redevelopment budget from $20,000 to up to $56,000. The funding would be drawn from the parks and recreation levy fund, expecting it to be replenished through community contributions. Council passed the resolution unanimously.

The improvements to Jack Downing Park for 2021 include

  • a fully accessible Pavilion structure,
  • stone walkways,
  • a flag pole for flag raisings,
  • better spacing for event and entertainment use
  • some park benches.

Furthermore, a favoured new feature was a COVID-19 granite memorial. Council agreed that it was best not to name survivors on the monument but to use a more general message to apply to all of those affected by the pandemic.

References – Shelburne Pushes Ahead on Jack Downing Park

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