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Residents upset over sudden loss of playground in Hastings County

By Tyson Nayler [3] and Mariia Khanenko [4]

BELLEVILLE – Residents of Russell Street in east end Belleville are questioning how neighbourhood greenspace will be replaced after the areas’s playground was dismantled last week.

“When my son came home from school and realized the park wasn’t there anymore, he started to cry,” said Michelle Blanton, an area resident.

The playground was removed after Hastings County council decided to build new affordable housing units in the space where the playground was located. Belleville council expressed concerns about removing the playground from the area.

Blanton said the residents of the neighbourhood were given no official notice the playground was to be taken down.

One of the concerns the city expressed during the summer application review [5] was the lack of a replacement for the equipment being removed. However, the county suggested that a park on nearby Pine Street would serve as an appropriate alternative playground for the residents.

“Kids in kindergarten would come home and play in the park; where are they supposed to go now? They can’t walk to Pine Street, it’s too far and they’re too young to cross roads on their own,” said Blanton.

Distance between the park on Pine Street and the playground on Russell Street.

Residents of Russell Street are also not able to put any playground equipment in their front or backyards because those spaces are considered communal property by the county.

Blanton says without the playground, many children have begun to play on the streets, possibly putting them in danger.

Another resident in the neighbourhood, Wendy Nuel said she’s upset about the lack of notice about the playground’s removal. She has lived on Russell Street for nine years but has always been concerned about the playground and it’s lack of cleanliness. She said needles were always found in the greenspace.

“I had to argue to get the needles picked up. I had to call the police and they said there was nothing they could do. I called the city. I called housing. And everyone was putting blame on someone else. My seven-year-old found them,” said Nuel.

Although families are upset that the playground is gone, many understand the reasoning behind the county doing this due to the affordable housing crisis in the area. A lot of people come to neighbourhoods like Russell Street because they have nowhere else to go, said Nuel. As a single mother, Nuel came from a woman’s shelter to Russell Street, and says that she believes what the county is doing is a higher priority.

The only concern Nuel says that she has now, is if they will build a replacement for the park in the near future. There is plenty of open space between units to put a replacement for the green space and it is something that needs to get done, says Nuel.

In the application review it says that Hastings County is open to considering a re-location for the playground to another suitable place.

QNet News was unable to reach Hastings County Housing Services for comment before deadline.