Last night, the City of Swift Current sat down with community members to go over the future of Ashley Park Hall, and Ashley Park.
In recent years, the Hall has become deteriorated and disused. The solution presented to residents of the community was the option to either repair or demolish it and seed the lot to grass.
Helping present the matter during last night's community consultation on the matter, was Michael Newell, parks manager for the City of Swift Current. He was happy to see so many members of the community present at the consultation.
"We wanted to invite the community to come and talk to us and see if there was any desire to upgrade and keep the building," said Newell. "The cost is very high, so we want to know if there is a desire to keep it."
By the end of the night, it became clear that the price of restoring the WW2-era structure was too much to justify.
After having come to this conclusion, Nicole Spenst, events and programs manager with Community Services for the City of Swift Current, confirmed that the building would be coming down later this year.
"The only timeline that we do know is that the Ashley Park Hall will be coming down by spring of this year," said Spenst. "We will be looking at doing some landscaping to make sure that the Ashley Park School site and the Ashley Park Hall site are green spaces that can be used by the neighbourhood until development begins down the road."
In addition to deciding the future of the Hall, the consultation was also an update on the development plans for the former site of the Ashley School and the adjacent Ashley Park area. The plans were first distributed back in 2018 by the City of Swift Current. This most recent public consultation was held at the InnovationPlex.
The former school site will be further developed into housing lots, where new homes will be constructed. These homes will back onto a public pathway and park space, while the lower area of the park will remain a soccer pitch.
"The soccer pitch is kind of non-negotiable," said Newell. "We don't want to remove that. When you have a development like that, that's been developed years ago by the community and everybody you know swoons over it, we don't want to remove it."
Some members of the Ashley Park neighbourhood were even of the mind that removing some of the planned housing development to expand the park space around the soccer pitch would be the better option. That way, the City could move in ahead of the developers and get the park up and running for folks to enjoy.
"There's a bonus there, but yet again you're waiting for the development to come, and we don't know what the developers are going to say," said Newell. "Because they might have a different plan and they might come to the City and say 'I want to do a B or C' and then city council has to consider those. So it's challenging to try and put something in there."
The development plan for the area would see the levelling off of the old school grounds, in order to prepare the area for development. They would also need to add in utilities, like power and water.
Before any of that can take place, a final plan will be needed, and other processes will need to be cleared.
Mitch Minken, the general manager of infrastructure and operations for the City of Swift Current, acknowledged that even from an environmental side there is plenty left to consider.
"When we're doing developments, even in an infill like this, particularly when we're this close to the Swift Current Creek, there's always an environmental, archaeological, and a geotechnical review done before anything starts," said Minken. "Those are all things that would have to be looked for."
While nothing is yet set in stone for the development, the fate of Ashley Park Hall is itself set in stone. Due to the Hall being demolished, the landscape along the creek will be a little more open this spring. With this consultation completed, Ashley Park community residents can expect further updates via social media as plans continue.
"It's a really exciting development for our community," said Spenst. "When the schools went down, I think there was a want or desire for those spaces to be filled, and this is the next step in making that happen. We're really happy with the engagement and the feedback that we received tonight so that we can move forward in that planning phase."