This letter is in response to Dysart closing the playground structure in Head Lake Park early last week due to safety concerns.
To the Editor,
I knew about the state of the playground after first reading about it in our local papers in October of 2021. Yes, you read that correctly; it was first discussed at council more then eight months ago when recreation and events coordinator Andrea Mueller gave councillors an update on the condition of the playground, which was deemed no longer safe for use. As a frequent visitor to the playground, this is probably true.
What I don’t understand is how council has just sat around for the past eight months (longer if you consider the lack of planning and foresight dates back to when the playground was installed) and did not spring into action to find a suitable replacement immediately.
In the original media report, council gave the impression (or perhaps illusion) that a new structure would be part of the spring 2022 budget deliberations. However, according to social media posts from the township, this is not the case as there is no budget for a new structure. Failed grant attempts and a 10 to 20 year Master Plan for Head Lake Park are precluding the municipality from replacing the playground this year.
Head Lake Park has often been dubbed the jewel of Haliburton Village and as a mother to young children I would agree with that statement. It is host to many festivals and events, the Haliburton [County] Farmers’ Market, Music In The Park and much more. It is where our new Welcome Centre is located, where families can roam and enjoy the outdoors at no cost, can bring their dogs to run off-leash and enjoy a picnic at one of the many outdoor tables. It also offers the only playground in Haliburton Village. As Dysart et al has pointed out, the other ones are located in West Guilford, Eagle Lake, Haliburton Lake and Harcourt, all a considerable drive from the downtown core.
When I worked at the Haliburton County Echo from 2009 to 2018 I spent most of those years covering Dysart council and remember the municipality had a tendency to budget in a practical and financially astute way. Council often maintained a healthy pool of reserves for “a rainy day.”
This approach, while fiscally sound, also often prevents municipalities from receiving grants, at both the provincial and federal levels of government. While I don’t necessarily agree with this logic, when it comes to grants, it’s the way these matters operate and perhaps part of the reason Dysart has been unsuccessful with their funding applications to date.
Taxpayers deserve better but, even more importantly, our children deserve better. If Dysart has the funds to replace a playground, I beg of them to consider putting a plan into action and rallying the community for support. This town has been known to come together for great causes and I can’t think of a better one then our downtown park and our youth. That rainy day has arrived.