First came the shock. Then came the sadness.
Nelson business owner Kyla Jakovickas has worked a stone’s throw from I.O.D.E Park for over four years. She was appreciative of the nearby green space and routinely admired the treescape overhead. But this week she discovered that nearly every tree on the slope had been toppled and removed by the City of Nelson.
“This is our only green space downtown,” said Jakovickas. “It takes away a lot of the beauty and character of Herridge Lane and now it’s just another empty lot.”
When she asked city workers what was happening she was informed there were plans for terracing, with picnic tables, pathways and new trees planned for the space. And though she admires their efforts, she’s concerned she wasn’t informed earlier.
“Shouldn’t maybe the direct surrounding businesses have some knowledge that this is happening, or some say?” she asked, noting she’s not sure if the work is officially part of the Hall St. development Stores to Shores. (Mayor Deb Kozak later confirmed this is the case.)
Her concerns were echoed online by a number of residents and business owners incensed by the move. BiBO’s June McEwen called it a “surprise for everyone”.
“As a person who has been cleaning the park for years…it was always dirt as nothing could grow on the ground and it was always very muddy. I just wish they could have left a couple more big trees … I recommend everyone call the city to look into their plan. They should have communicated it before this shocking change occurred today.”
But according to Kozak, the work is long overdue. She understands why some people would be upset with the development, but hopes they’ll keep a few things in mind: the Norway maples cut down were an invasive species, their root systems were buckling the pathways and making them unsafe, and eventually the park will look better than ever.
“People are terribly upset. I know it looks dramatic right now and I can imagine why people are alarmed,” Kozak told the Star. “This is an area we’ve identified as important for the community. It’s wonderful we have these green spaces in the city but we need to make sure we’re taking good care of them.”
And that wasn’t the case for this park—which sports the anachronistic name Imperial Order of the Daughters of Empire. Significant work hasn’t been completed there for 25 years and it was a routine hang-out spot for people looking to drink or indulge in illicit substances.
“Our public works supervisor Karen Macdonald had been dealing with the structures down in Cottonwood Falls Park as well, which was a very similar situation except they’re not only dealing with the debris of drinking and drugs, they’re also dealing with urine and feces. It’s really disgusting.”
The structures in Cottonwood have since been dismantled, an outcome Kozak said the community has welcomed. So she hopes these I.O.D.E. improvements will be similarly popular and will go a long way towards ridding the area of beer bottles and garbage.
Kozak said the takeaway from this situation is the city needs to communicate better with residents about their plans, and perhaps they should’ve posted a sign at the park while the work was being completed. But she’s confident that people will appreciate the work, and hopes it will radically change the vibe of the area.
“This park should be welcoming to all people,” she said.