July 18, 2018

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St. Charles residents opposed to addictions treatment centre decry loss of recreational facilities

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/1/2018 (187 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The president of a fledgling residents group in the St. Charles ward remains opposed to the compromise that would result in city hall turning over a shuttered arena to a group wanting to replace it with an addictions treatment centre.

Greg Hammond, president of FriendsofSturgeonCreek.com, said the compromise reached at a civic committee Monday fails to deal with the loss of recreational facilities for the west Winnipeg neighbourhood.

Hammond said he doesn’t object to the concept of the long-term recovery centre but said city officials are giving away scarce recreational facilities in the Sturgeon Creek area, adding it’s not fair to the neighbourhood, and residents across the city should be concerned they could be victimized in a similar fashion.

“This property has been public park space for generations and city hall can’t be allowed to simply give it away for free for a private development, regardless of the merits or need for a recovery centre,” Hammond said.

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Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 11/1/2018 (187 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

The president of a fledgling residents group in the St. Charles ward remains opposed to the compromise that would result in city hall turning over a shuttered arena to a group wanting to replace it with an addictions treatment centre.

Greg Hammond, president of FriendsofSturgeonCreek.com, said the compromise reached at a civic committee Monday fails to deal with the loss of recreational facilities for the west Winnipeg neighbourhood.

City of Winnipeg</p><p>The land outlined in yellow will be sold for $1 to Manitoba Housing, which in turn will lease the property to the Bruce Oake Foundation for the establishment of the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre.</p>

City of Winnipeg

The land outlined in yellow will be sold for $1 to Manitoba Housing, which in turn will lease the property to the Bruce Oake Foundation for the establishment of the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre.

Hammond said he doesn’t object to the concept of the long-term recovery centre but said city officials are giving away scarce recreational facilities in the Sturgeon Creek area, adding it’s not fair to the neighbourhood, and residents across the city should be concerned they could be victimized in a similar fashion.

"This property has been public park space for generations and city hall can’t be allowed to simply give it away for free for a private development, regardless of the merits or need for a recovery centre," Hammond said.

Councillors on the property and development committee voted 3-1 Monday to approve the sale of the old Vimy Arena (255 Hamilton Ave.) and parking lot to Manitoba Housing for $1. Manitoba Housing plans to lease the property for 99 years to the Bruce Oake Foundation, which wants to construct a $14-million, 50-bed, non-profit, long-term addictions-recovery centre for men.

The arena is located on the west banks of Sturgeon Creek, in a riverbank parkway that stretches from Saskatchewan Avenue to the Assiniboine River. There are tennis courts and a curling rink next door, and hiking, skiing and cycling trails run the length of the parkway.

Sports broadcaster Scott Oake, whose son Bruce died of a drug overdose in March 2011, said the foundation plans to operate the recovery centre in partnership with a Calgary organization, Fresh Start, which operates a similar recovery centre in the Alberta community.

Oake said attendance at the recovery centre would be at no cost to the addict residents, adding the operational costs of the centre would be funded through donations to the Bruce Oake Foundation.

Area residents are overwhelmingly opposed to the project, as more than 1,000 people have signed a petition.

While some said they were concerned with the presence of drug addicts in the area and how that might affect property values, Hammond said the residents group is concerned with the loss of the property and how it should have been redeveloped to support the area’s recreational needs.

Hammond said he’s resentful city and provincial officials have pitted two worthy initiatives against each other. "This shouldn’t be a one-or-the-other choice."

Hammond said he feels the residents are up against a television celebrity in Oake, a veteran NHL broadcaster on the CBC, who wants to honour the memory of his late son with a project many people support. But Hammond said the city acted improperly in how it’s disposing of the property and objectors are demonized.

"It doesn’t matter how worthwhile the recovery centre is, it shouldn’t be used to steal away parkland from the neighbourhood," he said. "The right thing to do would be to put together a list of available civic and provincial properties and then decide the right location for the recovery centre."

While Oake had initially wanted a large chunk of the green space surrounding the arena site for the project, to accommodate a future expansion that would accommodate female residents, he agreed to what the administration presented as a compromise – only the 2.5 acres of land the arena building sits on and the adjoining parking lot is included in the sale. Oake said he’ll abandon any plans for expansion and committed not to return to city hall in a bid to buy any of the adjoining park land.

Hammond said that’s not a compromise, adding the arena building could have been converted into other recreational or community uses. In addition, he said, the city denied the residents the opportunity to see if there is a third party out there willing to buy the property and donate it back to the city for recreational purposes.

Hammond said thousands of area residents visit the area and use the trails, adding there is a need for a facility to support the recreational uses.

"City hall needs to initiate a public consultation process much like the one that’s being done in St. Vital for the Canoe Club property," Hammond said. "The residents there are being given the opportunity to say how they would like the golf course to be used and we want the same opportunity."

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Aldo Santin

Aldo Santin
Reporter

Aldo Santin is a veteran newspaper reporter who first carried a pen and notepad in 1978 and joined the Winnipeg Free Press in 1986, where he has covered a variety of beats and specialty areas including education, aboriginal issues, urban and downtown development. Santin has been covering city hall since 2013.

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