New redevelopment plan inside Saint John’s Rockwood Park made public

A preliminary plan for the third phase of redevelopment inside Rockwood Park in Saint John, N.B., was made public on Thursday.

“The main goal of this project is to enhance the duck pond area and interpretive centre decking, and rehabilitate that,” said Marco Sivitilli of GEMTEC Consulting Engineers and Scientists Limited, one of the plan’s designers.

Part of the $1.5 million project will include widening of the roadway along Fisher Lakes Drive between Lily Lake and the duck pond, allowing for a walkway and multi-use trail to be built. The park’s Stonehammer Geosite and rock-climbing wall will also be developed to address safety concerns.

Sivitilli said construction was expected to be finished by the end of 2022.

Early reaction to the park’s latest redevelopment plan appeared to be positive Thursday, including from people who were initially skeptical of any additions.

“All I heard was, ‘Rockwood Park development,' and I’ve been involved in the fight against that before when there was the idea of selling off parts of the park,” says Phillip Blaney, referring to the scuttled plan to rezone portions of the area in 2018. “So, that was my worst fear.”

Blaney said the preliminary plan he looked at would enhance what’s already on the ground.

“It’s an improvement and it will be something we’ll all get to enjoy and I’m pleased with that,” said Blaney.

Bill Gardiner said he walked in Rockwood Park every day and called the redevelopment plan “reasonably good.” Gardener said he was in the process of finishing work on a complete history of the park.

“My main interest in the park is just the basic maintenance of the trails and pathways and the infrastructure we already have, rather than redeveloping it into something completely new and different,” said Gardiner.

“Most of the people who use the park that I meet are here for the wilderness areas and not so much the developed areas around Lily Lake and the Fisher Lakes.”

Michael Saunders said the thing he appreciated most about Rockwood Park was its affinity toward nature, and less toward developed features.

“I just find that when they fix up the park, they don’t maintain it enough,” said Saunders. “They have to put more maintenance into the park to just keep it as the basic thing.”

At 890 hectares, Rockwood Park is one of the largest urban parks in Canada.