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City of Halifax spending nearly quarter-of-a-million dollars to repair and restore former designated encampments

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According to the City of Halifax, estimated costs to repair and restore the former designated encampments, including Grand Parade, Victoria Park and Nick Meagher Park total around $238,522.

The city’s contractor estimated most of the total spending will be toward the repairs and restoration of Victoria Park, which is $172,680.

The city is expecting to spend $31,577 on Nick Meagher Park, and $24,462.50 on Grand Parade.

Victoria Park, along with Grand Parade, have been fenced off for five months.

While the work for Grand Parade has finished, the grounds of Victoria Park in Halifax are just starting to see some action, as heavy machinery moved in to begin the long-awaited restoration project. The sight of the progress was thrilling for community members who walk by the park every day.

“We’re glad to see this coming back to life again. Very excited to see the protection of it right now,” said Myles McCormick.

McCormick and his wife, Bonnie, often walk by Victoria Park. They have been waiting for the fencing to come down so they can return to using it.

“It would be nice on a day like today that we could sit down, have a cup of coffee or bring a sandwich for lunch or just relax a little bit on a nice day,” said Myles.

“It will be nice to be able to have access to it again I have say, without any concerns or worries,” added Bonnie.

The restoration has been met with enthusiasm from local residents.

“This was one of my favourite spot to be,” said Aristide Qwizera. “There used to be some homeless living here but I used to come here just to read my books and to have a think.”

So far, half of the park is already complete, and while people are happy to see the work being done, some still have concerns.

“I’d like a park that’s open to the general public, but also I would like to see some real solutions for homelessness and addictions in HRM and Nova Scotia,” said Bruce Bottomley.

McCormick said he hopes once the park is restored it does not return to an encampment.

“As far as people using it in the way it was previously used, it can’t happen. People can’t be camping in a facility like this and then you see the end result of what we have there needs to be facilities in place to help the people who need it.”

Victoria Park, along with Grand Parade, is now on the city’s prohibited list, so people cannot set up a tent there. However, they can elsewhere, and many places are already seeing tents being put up, like the median adjacent to Victoria Park.

Tents are seen at the median on University Avenue in Halifax. (CTV/Hafsa Arif)Sue Uteck, Executive Director of the Spring Garden Business Association, said it is a big problem for businesses in the area and also brings concerns that the city might not do anything about the tents if they return.

“You know, we look at the old central library that says no camping [and] tents are there. We were promised six tents on University Avenue and we currently have 34, so there’s not a lot of trust with the city at this point.”

She said in the last year, businesses have suffered due to shoppers’ safety concerns. “They’ve been told by customers that they don’t feel safe.”

Uteck said the city has sat down with businesses before to discuss solutions and hopes to continue having those conversations. However, in the meantime, she hopes the city hold up their end of the promise.

“We have put HRM on notice that if we’re spending all this taxpayer money in the park you better stick to your commitment that this will not be a camping site.”

For more Nova Scotia news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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