Story by Sharon Ho
What looks like a basketball court and parking lot in Georgestown is actually a park, Century Park, that local residents hope will be re-designed. The Georgestown Neighbourhood Association and the Building Healthy Communities Collaborative organized a meeting last Saturday, at The Lantern on Barnes Road, to discuss the health impacts of the latest design.
Pablo Navarro, co-chair of the Building Healthy Communities Collaborative, facilitated the discussion. Navarro explained that a Health Impact Assessment is like “a marriage between health promotion and an environmental impact assessment.”
What’s being proposed for Century Park includes the current basketball court, an amphitheatre, an edible garden, a storytelling circle, and a parking lot. Numerous residents mentioned the importance of the basketball court as a recreation area for teens because there are few such areas in downtown St.John’s.
“I use the park everyday for basketball,” said Shamus Brown, 16, whose house backs onto the park. “There’s no other place for teens to go. The key element is to keep the basketball court.”
Another resident in the meeting said that there is nowhere else for teens to hang out downtown. “Healthy recreation is so important. It’s what’s stopping them (the teens) from becoming like those old guys in front of the Georgetown Pub.”
Residents say men hang out in front of the pub and do drugs. Brown said the teens are then accused of drug use when they’re just playing basketball.
Everyone agreed that the basketball court is important. Many other residents, including children, called for a flat, green recreation space that would be accessible to people of all ages. Accommodating children, youth, and seniors and other vulnerable populations was a significant part of the discussion.
The next steps for the Health Impact Assessment will be assess the health impacts, write a report, and gather feedback on the report before submitting it to the City of St.John’s. Navarro aims to finish this work by late June.
The Building Healthy Communities Collaborative comprises representatives from public policy, research, and private sectors that are related to health and the built environment, as well as the community at large, who work together to promote, create, and maintain a healthy built environment for Newfoundland and Labrador.