About 13 per cent of City of Winnipeg park assets are in poor or very poor condition — nearing the end of their useful life — a new civic report states.
The 2020 assessment estimates the total replacement cost for those amenities, which include everything from fences and gates to play structures and swing sets, would be about $107 million.
The city won’t fill that gap quickly at its current rate of investment. Over the past five years, between $6 million and $11 million of annual capital improvements were in parks and open spaces, plus $5 million per year for Assiniboine Park.
The report notes 56 per cent of the park assets are in good or very good condition, 26 per cent are in fair condition, and five per cent are not yet rated.
Coun. Scott Gillingham, finance committee chairman, said there are park amenities in clear need of repair in his St. James ward, such as the benches at Wightman Green Park.
Twenty six per cent of the features at that particular park are deemed poor and another 53 per cent are ranked as fair, he said.
"It’s pretty tired and rundown… Some of these other parks, like Wightman Green, have been neglected because there hasn’t been the resources to fix them," he said Thursday.
However, Gillingham said he hopes $50 million of previously announced provincial infrastructure funding, which the city proposes to spend on recreation and libraries over the next three years, will help speed up some repairs.
A city proposal on how to spend that cash, which is still subject to council and provincial approvals, leaves $7 million unallocated.
The city may also have to consider closing some parks in the future, as new or revamped ones are completed, Gillingham said.
"It goes back to making the best use of city resources and assets. If there are parts of the city where it’s over-serviced for parks, that could be a discussion. I’m not wanting to see a reduction of green space by any large amount," he said.
For example, some small "tot lots" in St. James may be under-used, especially when nearby larger parks have been improved, he said.
Coun. Sherri Rollins, chairwoman of the protection, community services and parks committee, said she believes Winnipeggers make great use of the city’s 7,400 acres of local parks and open spaces.
An upcoming parks strategy, which is expected later this year, should help the city protect the green spaces in the future, she said. That strategy will focus on overall service levels, rather than just the age and condition of each asset, according to the report.
Rollins noted more than half of park assets are deemed to be in good or very good condition, while she expects the report’s frank assessment of others will help guide improvements.
"As a matter of civic pride and urban beautification, this… gives you a snapshot of where we’re at, but there is more to come," said Rollins.
Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.