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Powers Park project turns a corner with funding boost

First chunk of grant funding signals years-old revitalization plans moving to next level

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A parks project years in the making is hitting new strides with the approval of its first big chunk of grant funding.

During its Jan. 15 meeting, the Lord Selkirk-West Kildonan community committee approvedLand Dedication Reserve funding of $64,375 for the Powers for the People Powers Park revitalization project. Coun. Ross Eadie (Mynarski) put up the full amount from his own ward’s grant-funding coffers.

The project to revitalize the park at the corner of Powers Street and Selkirk Avenue has been in the works since 2008, with the North End Community Renewal Corporation (NECRC) and Aboriginal Visioning for the North End (AVNE) leading the charge.

"We want a very warm, friendly, clean park for people to gather," said Rob Neufeld, executive director at NECRC.

Since the idea to improve the park first germinated, progress has been slow. But for Jenna Diubaldo, a former AVNE staffer who now helps the project through her work with the LiveSAFE community safety and well-being initiative, the first chunk of grant money marks an exciting time for the project.

"We’ve still got a ways to go, but it’s exciting to know that’s happening now," Diubaldo said.

"It’s exciting to be at the phase where we’re looking for funding."

Neufeld said the $64,375 could be looked at as "seed funding" to get them started on a job that will take hundreds of thousands of dollars to have a proper design completed. He said they’ve put in for four or five different grants so far.

Some progress has already been made. The area has been cleaned up, and the ground itself has been landscaped to be level. As part of an active transportation initiative pursued by the city in 2010, bike paths have been put in through the area.

"It used to have a lot of garbage and it was in disrepair. Now it’s at least a clean, well-used green space," Neufeld said.

Community consultations on the project took place back at its beginning in 2008, with a major focus being to incorporate the wants of residents in their final design.

"I think the main priority really is to make sure the space reflects the community’s needs," Diubaldo said.

Architectural firm Hilderman Thomas Frank Cram (HTFC), has also come on board to advise in the planning, with architect Heather Cram working with the group.

HTFC hosted a meeting with about 20 involved parties in 2011 to get a feel for what people wanted to see in the park’s redesign. The result was a bevy of possible directions to go in.

"Flexible, space for casual community gatherings, as well as large organized events," Neufeld said of some of the public feedback.

"Cultural celebration, for example a medicine wheel. Celebration of the First Nations community, an elder’s garden, a safe space."

NECRC and AVNE have stayed in contact with stakeholders along Selkirk Avenue, and Diubaldo said now that funding is coming in, it might be time for another round of consultations once all of the "ducks are in a row" on the project. The Selkirk Avenue BIZ has also been kept in the loop as plans move forward.

Diubaldo said through her role with LiveSAFE she can spread the word about the effort to revitalize the park to various government departments, which will hopefully lead to more support later on. Neufeld said the list of parties involved in the project is getting longer all the time.

"It’s been a pair, then it was a triangle, now with the Selkirk Avenue BIZ it’s sort of a square. Soon it’ll be a circle," Neufeld said.

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