Barry Corrin just wants to enjoy Centennial Park.
Corrin, a retired social worker, frequents the park with his 5 year-old grandson Phoenix.
“Phoenix is a delight, he’s the center of my life,” says Corrin. “Every hour that I take away from him, I’m not happy about, but I felt like this was an important issue.”
The issue he’s referring to would add a six-storey building to a piece of the current grounds of Centennial Park in Downtown Duncan. They’ll be building over part of what is now a parking lot, and paving over another stretch of the park to add new parking.
Corrin says that dropping a six-storey building into that spot will put the essence of the park in jeopardy, adding the building will cast a shadow over the park and not just a metaphorical one.
“The whole ambiance and the openness and the whole restorative nature of the park is going to be lost,” says Corrin. “It’s the only real park, and it’s not a big park, in downtown Duncan.”
With the help of his wife of over 50 years, Corrin undertook the process of doing something to make people aware of the decision. Corrin spent many Saturdays at the Duncan Farmer’s Market with his stand and petition to tell people about his cause with some success. The petition has about 1,600 signatures and his online petition has just over 400 signatures.
He’s already had some traction, being granted an audience in front of Council during a Committee of the Whole Meeting on October 29th.
The new building will be owned by Duncan Housing Society (DHS) and serve as a replacement for Duncan Manor which currently has 122 residential units for seniors (55+) and adults living with disabilities.
Duncan Manor is over 40 years old and is outdated by most standards. 43 of the units do not have kitchens or showers, which makes many residents unable to cook for themselves pushes them into communal showers. The new building plan has 133 units targeting the same demographic of residents.
The long-term plan for the area would have the current residents move into the new building, then demolish the old Duncan Manor, and if approved for future funding put a new building with over 100 units into the current location of Duncan Manor. Plans which Corrin says are too uncertain to sacrifice the park for.
The plan for the new building will revolve around a swap of land between the city and DHS which is up for a public hearing on December 13th.
He’s clear that he’s not against the project of building affordable housing, but the location is the question.
“We all acknowledge that Duncan Manor needs to be replaced,” Corrin told city council at the meeting. “But let’s be clear. If land is swapped and re-zoned, the city of Duncan will get a replacement of Duncan Manor and only 11 additional units for people from the Cowichan Valley.”
Corrin says there are some major impacts for residents of the area moving forwards when the park will have more importance on residents of the area. The impacts factor around the plans for the area surrounding the park being zoned for high-density residences.
“There are multi-family homes going in there now, there will be more coming,” says Corrin. “I don’t know how many thousands of people over the next few years to come will be moving into the area. These are people who are going to be living in housing that doesn’t have a backyard. The park is and will be their backyard.”
Corrin says that this decision goes against the City’s Official Community Plan, and adds that if ratified would be a betrayal to the authors of that document. He points to the City of Nanaimo’s decision to reject a housing project in favour of green space in 2019 as a precedent.
Monday’s decision will set the precedent for the Cowichan Valley, and Corrin is urging residents to take the time to have their say about how that precedent is set. Whether that be calling into the public hearing, or signing the petition ahead of it. It will be held virtually at 6pm on the 13th.
“Any decision to move forward with this proposal will be precedent-setting,” Corrin writes. “It could be McAdam Park next because really, there is a lot of space there so what difference will taking a little chunk of it make? Precedents will be set, either to preserve and protect land that is zoned parkland or not.”
At the end of the day, Corrin just wants to secure a place to spend time watching his grandson grow up.
“I’d rather be spending time with him than worrying about this, but to be honest, I just couldn’t sleep at night,” says Corrin. “I thought this is not right. It’s a bad plan for the city. It’s a bad plan for people who are using and will use the park. It’s a bad plan for generations to come. Once that part of the park is gone, you’re not getting it back.”