Sudbury Chapter: Keep St. Joe’s lot, CARP urges

Click here to read ‘Keep St. Joe’s lot, CARP urges‘ by Mary Katherine Keown – The Sudbury Star, July 15, 2015

It may look like a neglected eyesore, its 300 or so spaces awaiting nothing more than the ghosts of a former hospital, but a local seniors’ group believes the parking lot at the old St. Joseph’s Health Centre still has some breath left in it.

And they want the city to reconsider its regreening plan for the space.

“It just seems like an asset,” Hugh Kruzel, chair of the local chapter of the Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP), says. “Why would you throw something away that’s already in place? Let’s let it run out until the end of its life.”

Following a brief walk-about, Kruzel estimates there are at least 300 parking spaces. He says he saw only one with choppy pavement.

St. Joe’s closed its doors in 2010 when the three hospital sites were amalgamated. Health Sciences North has been using the parking facility, but is planning to expand its own lot at its Ramsey Lake Road location on land purchased from the Idylwylde golf and country club.

In addition to its proximity to Bell Park, CARP is concerned, ironically, about the environmental footprint of regreening the paved space.

“It’s ideal – it’s on the correct side of the road and it wouldn’t take much to engineer a (wheelchair-accessible) ramp down (to Bell Park),” Kruzel continues. “It seems such a shame to take something that’s already paved, then waste all this carbon to tear that up and truck it somewhere, and then bring in soil from somewhere. We should avoid using the word ‘regreen’ on this property, because it was just a rocky knoll before. Let’s leave it the way it is and use it while we’ve got it.”

Phase one of the regreening project would cost $950,000, but with city staff trying to recover $6 million in savings, CARP argues the money would be better spent elsewhere.

Kruzel contends leaving the lot as is would simply add another option for patrons of Bell Park and for the thousands who attend summer events on the shores of Ramsey Lake.

“It’s another piece of the puzzle,” he says. “In terms of runoff, it’s only going to be used during the shoulder and summer seasons. … It’ll be closed during the winter time.”

In his opinion, there would be virtually no winter maintenance required.

John Lindsay, of Friendly to Seniors fame, sent The Star a series of photos he snapped during last weekend’s Dragon Boat Festival. They show two stuffed lots on York Street at about 1 p.m., as well as cars parked up and down along both sides of John Street. He also sent a photo of the St. Joe’s lot, also captured in the early afternoon, with an estimated 200 parked vehicles.

Finally, Lindsay sent two images of the sandy footpath that winds down to Ramsey Lake. While it is well-marked, it is unpaved and appears to be rather steep, so would not be suitable in its current condition for anyone pushing a stroller, using a wheelchair or requiring hand rails.

Kruzel understands it is not a permanent solution; he is not suggesting the city leave the tarmac in place in perpetuity, but while it remains in good condition, he sees no reason to uproot the asphalt.

“It’s there, so why not use it? While it’s in health, why not use it? It’s in great shape,” he argues. “It’s safe, it’s clean and it’s well-lit. There’s a proper intersection.”

He also suggests that other community groups, such as the Sudbury Horticultural Society, could get involved in beautifying the space.

“For $10,000 I bet the horticultural society could put in some planters very clearly along the walkway, along with some signage,” he muses. “For another $10,000 you could build that walkway down (to the lake).”

Kruzel stresses there is no immediate need to transform the lot, especially when the city is pinching pennies.

“Regreening doesn’t have to be done today. Why this desire to do it today? Maybe it’s not even a job for this council, but for the next council,” he says. “Think of the amount of carbon that would be produced hauling stuff away and bringing new stuff in.”

Finally, Kruzel wonders about the long-term maintenance costs of newly greened park land.

“Who’s going to use that space? That’s the other question,” he asks. “Who’s going to be responsible for this new space? The city? What’ll be the cost every year to look after this new space?”