Meeting at the Public Works Department

Today, we participated in a meeting with Mr. Tennessee Propedo, Manager for Parks with the City of Hamilton. Mr. Propedo’s responsibilities include looking after the outdoor ice rink programs throughout the City. He issues the permits. We truly appreciated his willingness to meet with me this morning.

During the meeting, we discussed several issues:

1.  Main concern – the negative impact that the new ice rink and new bright lights in Sanctuary Park have on the deer nighttime feeding

We were hoping that the single light facing east could at least be put on a timer and turned off at 11:00 p.m. Not a chance. It has to stay on all night. It is a “security light” that prevents a potential night time vandalism in the park. We have once read that what works well does not need to be fixed. This light wasn’t there in previous years and there never was a vandalism problem in Sanctuary Park. But there is a real price tag on having this light on all night and it has nothing to do with the fact that the taxpayers have to pay the bill. Since it was implemented, the deer stopped approaching and entering the park, where they used to feed regularly at night in the past. 

The new lights are “spilling” into the surrounding area. They create a problem that Shari Faulkenham, the Ecologist with the Dundas Valley Conservation Authority, called a “light pollution.” Here is what she wrote in her email addressed to me and to the City officials:

“For the City staff included on this email, the use of non-directional, unshielded lighting for the rink does not implement best management practices for the prevention of light pollution into a significant natural area, which has been well-documented to have an impact on wildlife behaviour.  It is my recommendation to the City to correct this lighting issue so that light is not unnecessarily spilling into the adjacent forest areas and impacting wildlife resources in the conservation lands surrounding Sanctuary Park.”

Unfortunately, this cannot be taken into account. The only agreement we was able to secure with respect to the ice rink and the lights was Mr. Propedo’s personal commitment to revisit this topic in the future in order to determine:

  • if the deer have adjusted to the new structure and the new lighting;
  • if there is a significant damage to the turf under the prolonged ice cover that will delay the regeneration of grass in the spring.

It is our understanding that the City did not conduct a thorough environmental assessment prior to issuing a permit for this ice rink and prior to installing the new lights in the park. Revisiting the topic in the future sounds like conducting an assessment after the damage is done and does not seem to be the best possible policy from an environmental point of view. But then again, better late than never.

2. Public safety and legal issues concerning improper use of this ice rink for hockey activities

Mr. Propedo has emphasized that, currently, there is a positive political climate  and a renewed commitment to support physical activities for children with the view of preventing inactive lifestyle and negative health related consequences. However, he also agreed that his own “NO HOCKEY ALLOWED” sign means what it says and that the Parks By-law clearly outlines activities that “no person, while in any park, shall engage in”.

We understand that the use of the outdoor ice rink in Sanctuary Park will be monitored and that necessary steps will be taken by the City’s Public Works Department in order to ensure compliance with the provisions of the Parks By-law and limitations imposed by the “authorized sign” posted next to the ice rink.

Mr. Propedo will remind the volunteer group maintainig the rink that they have to remove the hockey goals from the storage facility located in the park.

Mr. Propedo is willing to sit down with us again and to review the situation in the spring. This can only mean that some modifications regarding the presence of the ice rink and the new lights in the Sanctuary Park are still possible.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr. Propedo for his time and interest in this matter.

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