Fill in ditches before adding new playground equipment, delegate urges council

Some residents not pleased with township's accessibility plans for Boreham Park in Arkell

PUSLINCH – Bruce Taylor is not satisfied with the response he got from Puslinch council on March 22.

Taylor has long been concerned that the plan to make Boreham Park accessible does not even come close to addressing problems with the park, located in the Arkell community.

The playground structure at the park will be replaced this summer and a pavilion with picnic tables is to be constructed alongside.

The play equipment will be compliant under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), but Taylor says that because of deep drainage ditches that surround and bisect the property, the park will still be a hazard for people who use a wheelchair or have vision impairments.

“You have focused on the playground, not the full park,” Taylor told council.

“You need to focus on the ditches and swales … The ditches should be filled, and drainage added.”

Delegating with Taylor was Bernard Akuoko, who works for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB) and is visually impaired himself.

“I visited the park and it is a hazard if you have sight loss,” he said.

Akuoko advised council to fill the ditches, consult with the CNIB on accessibility matters, and to form an accessibility advisory committee to advise the township on accessibility issues.

Taylor offered five recommendations to council:

  • check with the township lawyer to see if the municipality is exposed to risk or liability if the ditches in Boreham Park remain;
  • have a provincial accessibility inspector assess the park, including the ditches;
  • apply for a federal grant from the Enabling Accessibility Fund;
  • address accessibility and safety of the park before installing the new playground; and
  • re-apply for an Ontario Trillium Foundation grant and emphasize that deep ditches and swales need to be levelled out.

Mayor James Seeley seemed to be holding back some frustration with the delegation, which had written several letters in the past bringing up the same points.

Seeley said a township audit in 2020 and again in 2021 indicates the township is compliant with the accessibility act.

He noted the township is not required to have every park perfectly level and the ditches in Boreham park provide drainage for the surrounding subdivision.

He noted a staff report on the ditches and what it would cost to bury drainage pipes and level the playground, is expected in the coming months.

“The objective of making the entire park AODA accessible is not feasible,” Seeley said.

“My objective with this park is that it is not delayed.”

Recreation and parks director Mike Fowler said the planned improvements can go forward and ditch work could follow without interfering with the original plan for the park.

Councillors asked no questions of the delegate and no motion was proposed or passed.        

“We’ll keep fighting for safety and accessibility in Boreham Park, and for the ditches to be filled in and Puslinch not being exposed to liability,” Taylor told the Advertiser in a follow-up email. 

“Disability rights are human rights.”