Saturday, November 15, 2008

Friends of Sweetman’s Garden

photo by: Stephen Downes

Friends of Sweetman’s Garden

For Immediate release: Friday, 14 November 2008

In September, 2007, North Bay City Council authorized conversations with representatives of Sweetman’s Garden to purchase this beautiful west end neighbourhood property. Many in our community breathed a sigh of relief that this special place had been “saved.” Not so. City residents learned on November 5, 2008 that a significant portion of the garden is slated for a new North Bay Hydro Sub-Station.

This Council decision will destroy the garden’s unique character. Although The Nugget reported the Sub-Station would be on land adjacent to this “beloved neighbourhood garden,” the Mayor indicated on his Cogeco TV call-in show on November 7 that it will intrude into the garden, more than 20 feet as it turns out. The project means the removal of all trees as well as the stone wall on the North/West boundary, and the destruction of several perennial gardens running parallel to that line. A lovely view that frames the whole end of the site will be gutted.

The result is a profound loss of the garden’s historic significance and the beauty and sanctuary that help make this particular neighbourhood so special to so many.

Friends of Sweetman’s Garden have made every effort to encourage a positive resolution in this matter. An agreement seemed close. We were therefore stunned to discover - through the media - that negotiations entered into in good faith were now suddenly being ignored by the City.

Our hope is that we can continue to work cooperatively with Hydro and the City to find a better way for everyone’s interests. We have always shared with City Council many of its stated hopes for this community. From the City website, for example: “The combination of lush forests, spring-fed water and clean air creates a healthy environment for working, living and raising a family. Safe, friendly, well-planned neighbourhoods also make coming home a pleasure in North Bay.” We also affirm the City’s efforts to put North Bay on a firm financial basis. But we have difficulty when the principles of healthy neighbourhoods that the City advocates in its Official Plan and the emerging uPlan are ignored in this instance.

The Hydro project proposed for the garden deeply, negatively, transforms it. A recent (draft) Parks Plan noted that the city’s west end is under-serviced in terms of parks. This garden, historically unique in Northern Ontario, is an obvious “green” asset. But steel structures, high-voltage lines and a chain link fence replacing what is now a treed, quiet residential area around the site will compromise the beauty cherished by dozens of school classes, bus tours, weddings and individuals, by the many volunteers who help Murray Sweetman maintain it, and by the children who play in what they call “the secret garden.”

This whole matter will be of a wider concern in a city which publicly expresses its desire to preserve all its beautiful neighbourhoods. In recent months some major companies in our city have stated their efforts to recruit and retain employees are enhanced by the quality of life here. Our hope is that North Bay neighbourhoods, including Pinewood where this garden is a special feature, one that is beloved by many around it and beyond, will be treated as places of great beauty, and not just as intersections and industrial sites.

For further info, and images from the garden:

Jim Sinclair, Spokesperson
(705) 472-5849

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