Grassroots group wins in its bid to save Komoka Park

A grassroots campaign in Komoka, a small but rapidly growing community just west of London, has won its battle to save a beloved park and community centre from being paved over.

Middlesex Centre council voted against declaring the Komoka Park land as surplus, which would have opened the door for the proposed development of a private sports rehabilitation facility.

“I’m pleased for being able to keep the building, obviously, but I’m also pleased that council listened to us, and listen to our concerns, and the fact that we want to be able to keep the part of the park that was a stake,” said Paul Miniely, a co-leader of the Save the Park community group, which rallied residents to urge council to keep the park intact.

Strathroy based orthopedic surgeon Dr. Chris Chant had proposed buying the land and developing an athletic rehabilitation centre. The proposal became a hot button issue in the community, and while some councillors entertained the idea, in the end they voted 6-1 against declaring the land surplus.

Paul Houghton, also with the Save the Park group, said the park is far too precious to give up, but he added that he hopes another site can be found for the proposed facility.

“We have preserved the park, we have preserved the community centre, but the bitter part is I really want to find a home for this because it’s going to be a really great asset. And I think what it comes down to is availability of land.”

The lone vote in favour of declaring the land surplus came from deputy mayor John Brennan.

He declined a request for an interview, but in the special virtual meeting Wednesday he said he doesn’t want to lose the opportunity for the facility.

“I don’t think we could ever have enough commercial, industrial business in the community to support the tax base, whether it’s a second, third, fourth medical centre,” Brennan said. “Obviously there’s a need for it, if these people are doing it for, it’s something that’s needed by the people.”

The Komoka park situation has caught the attention of some members of the local development community.

Mike Wallace, the executive director of the London Development Institute is a former municipal and federal politician himself. Speaking in general terms, he said it would be extremely rare for a municipality to divest of park land for private development.

“Park land is basically a sacred cow, it’s not touchable,” he said. “The park land that’s been there for many decades, it’s not something that council can easily turn a blind eye to and then have development happen on that property.”

Middlesex Centre council has pledged to work with Dr. Chant to find a suitable location for the development.