Twenty years ago, The Grand concourse Walking Trail was created to be a series of linked walking trails that could lead locals and tourists alike through the colourful city of Greater St. John’s. It’s emphasis is on green spaces, like riverside strolls, with the idea being that these trails could promote outdoor activity, a healthy lifestyle, and a better appreciation of St. John’s and Mt. Pearl. 

Its funding for expansion, maintenance, and new parks comes from the partnerships this non-profit organization has made with various agencies and philanthropists. One of which used to be the City of St. John’s (who once gave Paul Johnson a key to the City for his efforts in spearheading the Grand Concourse).

A press release sent out this morning declares the City is cutting its funding to this award-winning trail system. Council will cut $390,000 the GCA use to maintain the Grand Concourse within the city of St. John’s.

If a cut of $390,000 sounds disastrous, consider this: the funding cut is in addition to a cut in annual capital expenditures of about $200,000 that happened just a few years ago. The GCA have sat with City representatives to debate this decision, but to no avail.

The city dropped this bomb on Christmas Eve, stating that they’d cancel the majority of its contract with the GCA by January 1st, 2016, despite the fact the GCA feel this is a breach of a contract — a contract not technically expired until April of 2016.

On their end, the City says they’ll handle maintenance of the trails through their own city services, or maybe they’ll “send them out to public tender.” The press release boldly asserts, “They believe there is money to be saved … but we believe the city’s past record in savings on maintenance has not been particularly successful.”

“The city planners should know the GCA is a non-profit. There is no one getting rich at the taxpayers’ expense. We hope that the City’s intention is not to save money by neglecting the hard won improvements to our community. We have high standards for our trail maintenance, and because of this we are envied by other communities. The financial savings the City may gain from this outsourcing will be negligible.”

It should be noted that the City also cut funding to Pippy Park, claiming the province ought to fund it since they own it. So, a city known for its arts culture, outdoor life, and colourful small business and entrepreneurial spirit is under attack on all fronts by a council in a hard place who, to many of us, don’t seem to agree on what makes this city the city it is.

Moreover, the GCA are worried what benevolent local business people will think of the fact they’ve recently funded parks that the GCA can no longer maintain on account of this funding cut. “The Grand Concourse built [Bidgood Park] in 2014 and now the City is removing our funding to maintain it. What will future benefactors of our City think when they see the lack of respect the City gives their donation?”