By Trevor Busch
Plans to install new benches and plant additional trees in Confederation Park have been approved by town council, with the work to tentatively commence in 2020.
“I’d like to just make an observation, and then I’d like to make a motion,” said Coun. Mark Garner at council’s Aug. 19 meeting. “I’ve never seen the town look as good as it has lately. Everything’s clean, the lines are well painted, everything is trim. It looks awesome, I think.”
Garner then put forward a motion to install five new eight foot handicap-accessible Blue Imp benches in Confederation Park, as well as an additional 20 trees, with the locations and varieties to be determined by Taber Communities in Bloom; with the work to be completed before Nov. 20; and not to exceed a cost of $14,000 with the funds to be allocated from the Council Discretionary Fund.
“I think it’s just time that we did some improvements in our centennial park (Confederation Park),” continued Garner. “It’s becoming more of a social hub for us, and I just don’t think that four picnic tables really facilitates that park as they should.”
Coun. Jack Brewin inquired how much preliminary investigation of the idea Garner had conducted prior to making the motion.
“I agree with Councillor Garner about picnic tables, and trees of course. Have you done any cost analysis as to how much it’s going to cost?”
Garner could only provide some rough estimates.
“Just some rough calculations. We can get trees transplanted there for about $200 per tree with about a 24 inch root ball from a local contractor.”
Brewin suggested a supplementary plan that might help to defer the costs of the proposed project for taxpayers.
“That’s very interesting. I thought of the idea a while back of being able to donate a tree to the park, in memorium or something like that, just to offset some of those costs. There’s different ways to look at all this. I know — and I support — doing something more with the park, because it is quite a social hub now. And I love seeing that, every weekend you go by and there’s something happening, that’s what we want to promote in this town.”
Coun. Carly Firth asked administration if there was an overall plan for development of Confederation Park, and if this would have to be adhered to.
“There is not a formal plan that we have passed for Confederation Park,” said CAO Cory Armfelt. “We do work with an arborist every year to go through and have a look at those trees. I would want to bring an arborist back in and have them make some recommendations with regards to where the new trees would be planted, and actually craft a plan for where the benches would be best suited.”
Armfelt also indicated he would have to check if town crews would have the time to accommodate an additional project in the fall of 2019, as well as expressing concerns about ensuring the town’s assets in the park — irrigation lines, electrical, etc. — are protected from damage.
“As much as I support the whole plan that Councillor Garner has laid out to put benches and trees, in my mind this is no different than when the off-leash dog society came to us and said ‘here’s what we want to do, and here’s what we’re going to do, we raised the money,’” said Coun. Louie Tams. “We tabled that until administration had input. In my mind, as much as I totally agree with you Councillor Garner, I don’t think we can do this without going back to our administration and saying we need input.”
Mayor Andrew Prokop argued consulting an arborist would be crucial before any trees could be selected and planted in the park.
“I think an arborist is key to know what type of trees should go where, if we’re going to go that route.”
Garner accepted a friendly amendment to his motion for the project to follow the recommendations of administration regarding placement and selection of benches and trees rather than Taber Communities in Bloom.
Armfelt recommended the project be considered for next year during fall budget deliberations in 2019. Brewin also felt a fall timeline for the project was too short.
“I guess I don’t see it like that,” said Garner. “I think we can hire a tree specialist and say ‘hey, can you come and make some recommendations to administration.’ If you give them the green flag, and they do the work. I think we need to fast-track this. My concern is you put it off, and put it off — we’ve put that off since 1966, other than some trees around the skate park 10 years ago.”
Armfelt reiterated his concern regarding a tight timeline for the project in the fall, and Coun. Carly Firth asked Garner to accept an additional amendment to his motion, deleting a fall timeline for the project.
“I just think (if) we’re planting these trees, they’re likely to be there for a long time, so I’d rather we do it properly, rather than just plunk a bunch of trees down.”
Following discussion, council voted unanimously to pass Garner’s motion as amended.