Lushly green on a hot June afternoon, Crescent Drive Park and nearby Crescent Drive Golf Course are a haven for people out for a stroll or reading a book by the river, golfers perfecting their stroke and families looking for outdoor playtime while kids are remotely learning from home.
However, the future of the park and links is up in the air, as the City of Winnipeg discusses its policy document on how much greenspace should be sold off, according to a member of the Crescent Park Rescue (CPR) group.
Muriel St. John and other area residents, along with other concerned groups, made presentations to City Hall about the Our Winnipeg 2045 Development Plan and its companion Complete Communities 2.0, which sets the stage for development on Major Open Space on nature parks and regional parks over 100 acres and all city-owned golf lands. The policy papers also contain exceptions for development of one and two-acre portions of greenspace, parks and golf courses.
This exception is what allowed the city to sell a portion of Crescent Drive Golf Course to the Thermea Spa, she said, and which opens the door to future expansion of the spa and housing being developed on the site.
"We need to protect our greenspaces. Winnipeg only has six per cent of land set aside for this, while national average is nine per cent," St. John said.
CPR would like to see a master greenspace plan developed in the city, which takes into account biodiversity and corridors linking greenspaces. "Instead, everything right now seems to be about money and what the city can get by selling off greenspace," she said. "You can’t get back that space once it has been developed."
The pandemic has put greenspaces under pressure, with people looking to the outdoors for safe activities. St. John said the Crescent Park Golf Course saw a 44 per cent increase last year in golfers making the rounds. "It’s a lovely, par-3 course that’s very well maintained by the city," she said.
"The city’s development plan wants to repurpose up to 30 per cent of public golf lands including the sale for development of housing. The city allowed Thermea Spa to build a huge private operation on Crescent Drive Golf Course with a 25-year lease and the spa told us they would like to expand. My concern is that Thermea will expand into the golf course and take over even more green space."
Her concern about her local park and greenspace in general in Winnipeg led St. John to join OURS-Winnipeg (Outdoor Urban Recreational Spaces).
"Our co-chair Ron Mazur made a presentation on May 13, Save Our Seine made a presentation, the cross-country association, the Henteleff Park people, everyone wants to stop the reduction of parkland and natural areas," she said. "It was interesting that Coun. Kevin Klein (Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood) made a comment that ‘greenspace has taken over the day’. I truly hope the councillors listen to what we’re saying."
Other parks in southwest Winnipeg which could be affected include the Assiniboine Forest, Tuxedo Golf Course and Wildwood Golf Course. St. John noted that golf courses add an additional one per cent to the total greenspace in the city. Her attention was drawn to a golf course on the western edge of the city which also could be sold.
"The John Blumberg Golf Course was declared surplus in 2013. However, the City Clerk’s office has confirmed that council could reverse its decision," she said, adding she has written to city councillors about this and is encouraging other Winnipeggers to do the same. "I’ll be watching the June 16 meeting on YouTube. I’m hoping the councillors vote to stop selling off greenspace."
OURS-Winnipeg has a petition asking City Hall to increase greenspace in the future, and protect what already exists, at http://chng.it/z9n7nv5V
For more, see www.ours-winnipeg.com