Community-led group in Lively looking at former golf course to replace Meatbird Lake

Mary Crowder has been a long-time advocate for the community of Walden, having lived in Lively most of her life.

She decided to step in after hearing about the sale of Meatbird Lake and how Vale was looking to acquire the iconic watering hole. After hearing there wasn't much she could do, she later learned it had already been sold for $4 million.

Crowder and others have since formed a grassroots committee made up of community members looking to find a replacement.

"There's not a lot you can do with $4 million," Crowder said.

"I've had a few people say, 'Oh we'll build a pool and a rec area like they have at Espanola.' Well, you're not going to do that for $4 million and my fear was if something wasn't done, the city would put the money back into its coffers."

City council, upon agreeing to the sale of Meatbird Lake to Vale, determined the $4 million must be spent in the Lively area.

Since then, Crowder and others have been coming up with suggestions and now they think they have a viable one.

They're calling on the city to purchase the former Sixth Avenue Golf and Country Club and turn it into a park.

"This is our best option -- it's a beautiful spring-fed pond. People have said it's swampy (but) it's not. It's spring-fed -- those are lily pads out there. Lily pads only grow in fresh water," said Crowder.

The purchase of the 80 acres would have to happen fast, as a Toronto-based developer is interested in the property.

Would cost city $2 million

It would cost the city $2 million and it's the group's hope the remaining funds could be used to make the park self-sustainable and free to everyone.

Crowder said with some help from volunteers, they could have a thriving area for everyone to use.

"This to me would be a plus -- it would be Meatbird Lake plus, it would be just a jewel in the middle of Walden," she said.

She's been speaking with city councillors and while she's still waiting to hear back from some, Crowder appears to have the support of the area councillor Michael Vagnini.

Vagnini said it was extremely important to him the $4 million be spent exclusively on the area. He credits Crowder and others for the work they've done in getting to this stage.

"With community groups that we have right now that are out there, looking at the different options that we have and with the city doing the process … we're getting the best of both worlds," he said.

Other locations were scouted but none offered the same amenities and level of privacy the golf course provided.

Vagnini joked no one wants to see the area councillor running into a body of water on MR 24 with his rubber ducky.

The property's owner said he's heard from the city realtor and remains optimistic about the city's level of interest.

Rod Jouppi said he'd love to see the area turned into a park, but the onus right now is on the city to act.

"People will take that park under their wing and do good things with it, I think you have to be careful about recreation not totally being indoors all the time," said Jouppi.

Crowder said the community can do a lot of the due diligence, they just need to know that the city has purchased the property.