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Plans for sale of SJF Park still up in the air

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On a rainy morning Sir John Franklin Park is lush and green. Soccer teams often practise and play on its field, and dogs frolic with their owners.


Dogs are technically not allowed because this green space is Winnipeg School Division property but, once the land is finally sold, it will be someone else’s to develop or to leave as green space.


The school division has wanted to sell the land for years, but after public consultations in 2008, 2009 and 2010, it is clear that area residents and city officials don’t want it sold to just anyone.


Brian Hydesmith has lived across the street from the park, which is located north of Grosvenor Avenue between Lanark and Beaverbrook streets, since 1996. He’s started a petition to save the park from being sold to developers.


"Every time this issue comes up the community people kind of get together to try to find a way to keep the green space as it is," Hydesmith said. "That seems to be the thrust of everyone’s wishes are."


The green space, which hosts soccer teams from the Corydon Community Centre’s league, is the former home of Sir John Franklin School, which was closed in June 1987 after enrolment dwindled. The building was torn down in fall 1991, and the space has been maintained by the division as a public green space and soccer field.


Dale Burgos, communications manager for WSD, said the division has wanted to sell the land since it tore down the school.


"It’s surplus, and really there’s no reason for the division to have it anymore," Burgos said.  
John Orlikow, city councillor for River Heights-Fort Garry, has proposed to save the land. Two years ago the city put up a bid with no monetary value to take it over, he said. WSD refused.

"So we’ve made another bid, through the City of Winnipeg, with money attached to it," he said "So we’re hoping to preserve it as green space."


Orlikow said he has seen the changes in the surrounding neighbourhood and feels a future development would not be well received.


"They are losing the fire hall, which will probably be an infill development as well," he said. "So this is kind of, in respect of all the things going on, that we need that green space for community use."


Burgos said WSD is not against the city purchasing the land, but also that others have expressed interest.


"We don’t really know how serious they are until we start accepting those bids," Burgos said. "We’re really at a place where we’re unsure of what the future looks like on this space."


The sale is being handled by WSD’s legal team, Burgos said, and it could take weeks or months to complete. Burgos said they hope to have it sold within the next school year.


If the city does not purchase the land, Hydesmith would like to see the Corydon Community Centre buy it.


Jim Carson, general manager of the centre, said it is something that will be brought before the centre’s board in June. He says he would like the area to stay a green space and maybe put in a baseball diamond, but he isn’t sure it is large enough.


"Any green space is good," Carson said. "I would like to see a space like that committed to kids’ sports."

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