The construction of a community storage shed in our park is a unique project. There is a history of community gatherings here in the La Croisée community and like them, the shed has a truth that is not often proclaimed. It is like a missed footnote to a text and that truth deserves better.
In the winter of 2015-2016, our community association was shown a drawing for the park upgrade plan to be completed in 2016. Despite that being against normal protocol, that offering came with a caveat – don’t tell anyone.
Upholding that promise, a community survey was released to simply gather the opinions of neighbours regarding thoughts on our current and potential public space – our parks.
A report was then presented to the City that included a few questions to residents regarding the possibility of a community storage shed. (The full report can be found in the “Document Library”)
( From “Overview” in the La Croisée Community Survey Report – June 2016)
“… Designers have a great deal of knowledge that is infinitely more resonant when it is used to help everyday citizens articulate their needs and create public spaces that are responsive to the communities they serve.” (Fred Kent, Project for Public Spaces, “Whom does design really serve” Oct. 3, 2012.)
There is enough cynicism and apathy but the truth is – without our neighbours coming together, participating, and offering support at events, registering, taking just a little bit of their time, helping with the survey, this project would not have been possible.
It wasn’t perfect, not every single voice was heard but make no mistake, – the survey report was recognised. It reverberated with the City administration. They heard a legitimate voice speak for a possible shared benefit: a public good proclaimed to be so, by a significant number of our community members.
The City of Gatineau employees then respectfully, with expertise and resources, incorporated the shed foundation and electrical supply into our park upgrade. This was done with available funding within the original work – all in support of this project for our community.
We can feel like it’s just a symphony of problems and complaints, but when citizen agency (the ability to act) is locally enabled, a vacuum can be filled if we learn and engage in a respectful and legitimate manner. The truth is – it works. Of course, it comes with legal responsibilities, design and budgetary constraints, effort, and it’s slow – but it does work.
- The existing foundation will soon be extended 1.5M further into the park from the property line.
- Our Community Association will be paying for this shed, sub-contracting it’s construction and donating it to the City.
- Our community will take care of it and hold the key to it’s doors. Our events will be easier to organise , over time our resources improved, more recreation will be possible along with spontaneous get togethers. For example: “There’s a 5à7 barbecue in the park tonight, all are welcome!”
- Specific details of the agreement will be made clearer when official documents are in hand very soon, until then, the shed will likely not be in place until the spring.
- We will have all winter to raise our funding and complete the planning for it’s “grand opening”.
- Thanks to the discretionary support of our past and present City Councillors, Richard Begin and Mike Duggan, our fundraising has received a generous boost.
Even though it is a bit complicated and will have taken two years to be built, the shed will be created by our residents and a public administration that supports them.
Together, if we take care of it responsibly, use it to it’s full potential, our community will be nurtured. And that is the other story in the offering we already know about community.