Funding problems derail work but HRLE says application reconsidered
Work is behind on Bidgood Park in Goulds because of funding troubles, including a rejection from the provincial government.
But that rejection was reversed Friday, according to a spokesman for Human Resources, Labour and Employment, although the exact amount the Grand Concourse Authority will get this year hasn’t been determined yet.
The Department of Human, Resources, Employment and Labour (HRLE ) initially turned down the Grand Concourse Authority’s application for $300,000, executive officer Addison Bown told The Telegram this week.
A spokesman for the department said Friday the Grand Concourse was turned down in the first round of applications for the job creation partnership program, which was short-changed by $12 million this year by the federal government.
“When you are missing 10 people working, you got to fall behind on your projects. That’s life, but we’ll carry on and we’ll get through it,” Bown said earlier in the week while standing on a park bridge constructed last summer.
Otherwise, the authority has $125,000 from the City of St. John’s, Goulds Lions Club, and its own coffers this year to forge ahead with the Bidgood Park to bring already constructed trails up to Grand Concourse Authority standards.
“The city has agreed to the maintenance of this park, to pay the Grand Concourse Authority,” Bown said.
Other projects have taken some precedence because of pressing opening dates — the cycling path from Windsor Lake to Penney Crescent in St. John’s, memorials at Prince of Wales Collegiate and Holloway school, the Caribou Memorial and various projects in Mount Pearl.
Bown said the Grand Concourse doesn’t get as much money from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency as it used to.
“We are not-for-profit here and we need every penny we can get. So it’s not only hurting us the Grand Concourse, it’s hurting all of our members we do work for,” he said.
When announced, the park was a $5-million project. And it will likely be a $2-million park when completed, due to funding troubles that have scuttled a planned museum/education building and other amenities. A planned outdoor swimming area has also been nixed.
“That the city rejected and probably fair enough, an outdoor swimming pool and they don’t have the staff to supervise what they got,” Bown said.
The family of Roger Bidgood donated the 38 acres of Goulds land a decade ago.
Work was started on the park about four years ago, and Bown said HRLE has supported the project every other year.
“We got a good track record,” he said.
“We employ a lot of people. We give them training and they go on to private enterprise. … A lot of them now are taxpayers for 12 months of the year, so it is a good investment for (HRLE.)”
Though it’s not officially open, the Bidgood Park is being used by the public.
About a quarter — five kilometres — of the planned trails have some work done, at a cost of $1 million.
Trails, rough graded, meander off into the woods or skirt pretty wetlands. Some of the trails are getting overgrown, as is an outdoor classroom that’s been used by three high schools in the area.
As Bown described plans for the park, which the Grand Concourse had hoped would include solar and/or wind energy, birdwatchers Ed Hayden and Alison Mews asked why there are so many separate little trails.
“I’m always afraid I’m going to get lost,” Mews said.
“One connects into the other in the overall master plan. That master plan was done 10 years ago, adopted by the city and we’ve been ever since trying to get funding,” Bown replied, explaining the loss of amenities the trails were to lead to, such as the museum.
“Like you say there’s been no movement,” Mews said.
“I come almost every week,” Hayden added.
“We love it here,” Mews said.
“Lots of birders come out here. There are a lot of wetland birds, boreal forest, a nice combination of habitats. Every season, when you come, there’s something else.”
“It’s one of the prime spots,” Hayden said.
“When it’s done you won’t get lost. There will be a lot of story boards. It will be a lot simpler,” Bown said.