A Letter, re: Willistead Park Paths

11 Mar

The following is a letter from Peter Angermann, a representative from the Save Willistead Park group.

The group called ‘Save Willistead Park” has the same goal statement: That is, our goal is to “maintain this Jewel of Windsor in perfect historic condition”. We also recognize that a statement and goal objective like that has to be qualified and substantiated so that Windsor’s public will have the background and information needed to accept it as factual and rational. Did you know that in order for the Board and the Parks Department to make their plan happen that they had to undo the park’s historical designation? How is that preserving “perfect historical condition”?

SWP is 100 percent behind the Park’s Department’s plan to improve the parks drainage. Our submitted plan goes a step further. It is on record that the primary reason for flooding in the park is the park’s own topography. It is dished to the center. That is, the ground is higher around the park’s perimeter than it is in the center allowing the water to pool. The simplest and most cost effective remediation for this is to add more soil to the center of the park. Soil is a commodity that we have an abundance of because of the Parkway Project. This free soil can easily be re-purposed to help resolve Willistead’s occasional flooding by correcting the water shed and by simply being able to absorb that much more water. In conjunction with new drainage and basins this is win, win.

Everyone knows by now that SWP’s main objection is to ADDITIONAL PATHS in the park. Adding over an acre and a half of asphalt will not enhance the park’s historical correctness, nor will it maintain the historical texture and nature of the property. These repeating paths will not enhance anyone’s park experience and in the long run will cost much more to maintain because the cheapest solution (asphalt) is never the long term solution. The paths along the riverfront have already been repaved three times within the last ten years and they are still cracking, swelling and pooling water. The current paths in Willistead Park are perfected with time. That is to say that they are functioning in a very well thought out and time tested manner and their aesthetic is true to Willistead. SWP’s submitted plan is about enhancing what we already have.

SWP’s plan is simple. To accommodate accessibility we propose to widen the existing north to south and east to west paths to ten feet. The diagonal path from the Niagra gate to the Devonshire gate should be widened to 72 inches. We made the recommendation to hardscape these paths with smooth pavers that will maintain the historical component to the property, facilitate accessibility for both patrons and the vehicle requirements of the Parks Department. A perfect and beautiful example of this can be seen and experienced in Amherstburg’s Navy Yard Park. It has wide paths and large expanses of bricked paths that make that park absolutely stunning. It is accessible by all and for every purpose. In fact, there is a retirement home and community located on its southern flank. This park is a recommended must see to help make an informed choice about Willistead.

The Willistead/Park’s Department proposal isn’t just about the addition asphalt paths. They are also planning to widen the pedestrian gates on all four sides to accommodate large vehicles. This is wrong for a number of reasons. Can you imaging tampering with the delicate cut quarry stone and footings of the gate posts? Just moving those to a new location is tricky and opens the way for future decomposition and/or failure. They will also have to anchor and support wider, heavier, wrought iron gates that will put huge stress on the stone columns. The most obvious and most important problem is this: Opening up the gates to vehicles and adding roadways in the park is going to invite cars into the park and not for any purposeful reasons. Expect holeshots in the middle of the night and always be wary of unexpected traffic at your back. This, by the way is already happening in Jackson Park. Not what parents and elders want to hear.

Mr. Marshall claims that this is not about Art in the Park yet if you overlay his proposed park paths over the Art in the Park vendor’s map they line up without a smallest difference. The Board has also claimed that they are working towards further monetizing the park with extra events. What they are failing to comprehend is that adding over an acre and a half of asphalt will not produce any extra revenue nor will it help to attract new venues. If that were the case, the Michigan State Fair Grounds wouldn’t be sitting in decay today. The success of Art in the Park was made in the grass. Messing with a proven strategy is never a good idea. They also do not seem to care about adding more imposition to Old Walkerville at large. We do accept Art in the Park with open arms every year. We also do not mind occasional events such as the Concours d’elegance. That said, we also have to keep in mind the parking, noise and public nuisance issues that we tolerate during these events.

The bottom line in this case is not about money. It is about a critical historical and cultural attraction that Windsor is fortunate to have. Yes, we all want to improve it but we also have to preserve it. The right choice, for the right reasons is critical if we want to preserve this historical gem for future generations. We would never have any trouble selling that.

– Peter Angermann

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