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Council to consider bigger price to play for Benson Park renewal project

Playground renewal plans for Benson Park in Picton delayed three years due to the pandemic have resurfaced before councillors with a bigger price to play.

However, council agreed to support the recommendation by Lisa Lindsay, Director of Recreation and Community Facilities, to consider additional funding for phase one of the Benson Park Master Plan project in the 2024 capital budget. It moves to the next council meeting for a final decision.

The 2020 budget secured $100,000 to replace playground equipment and the preliminary budget for phase one is estimated at $300,000. The entire plan design budget estimate is $700,000.

Lindsay adds grants and sponsorship opportunities will be explored.

The extra funding is necessary in the park as its playground equipment is non-compliant but it also needs to be relocated to stem vandalism, illegal activities and fighting.

Lindsay noted that while most activities at the park are positive, “there has been consistent misuse of the playground space and equipment, vandalism, tree damage, illegal activities, along with other infrastructure related damage. She added that the OPP recommend a revised park layout to minimize the obstructed street view and unwanted activity.

A public meeting held last October and consultation with the OPP, designer Wentworth Landscapes and a playground condition report have been considered. The project is also part of a coming master plan for all parks.

Priorities at Benson Park include a fully accessible park, relocation of the playground to improve safety, a greater age range of playground equipment, passive and active play, a shade structure or gazebo, more seating and inclusion of native trees and plants.

While several councillors offered opinion on specifics in concept photographs, it was agreed aspects can be discussed at budget time, and most important is to have time to get a handle on funding opportunities from governments, programs and community-based ideas before budget talks.

CAO Marcia Wallace also noted there will be a report coming forward in October speaking to use of $800,000 in a reserve account for park lands throughout the County as municipalities must spend the funds and not hold onto them. She added the funds are to spent close to the areas they were collected from parkland-in-lieu building fees.

In 2020, council had approved replacing the 1990s playground equipment that no longer met safety compliance because replacement parts were no longer manufactured.

The park was last revitalized in 2017 through grants and reserve funds and included the replacement of the existing staircase, pathways and lighting, site furnishings and new signage. The tennis court was resurfaced into a multi-use court and public washrooms were added behind Benson Hall, the former Barker House.

Funding for that $237,900 project, along with a $94,000 tender for the washrooms, was boosted with a $133,200 Canada 150 Grant. The remainder, nearly $50,000, was drawn from the municipality’s capital sustainability reserve.

The park was created in 1946 when the property and building were donated to the town. In the 1950s the building and park were used as overflow for the school board.

Benson Park Hall – the original Barker homestead known as The Grange

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