2 min

‘Fixing’ Cawthra Park

Outsider decides sex is inappropriate

RESPECT. Sex at the AIDS memorial is always a rough topic. Credit: Dan Ogilvie

An audit of Cawthra Square Park targets park sex and other “inappropriate activities.

Nancy Smith, an urban safety consultant commissioned by the city, says Cawthra’s Sep 8 “safety audit” was an off-shoot of the city’s $2-million Community Action Policing initiative – and the message sounds similar.

“The parks department identified a number of parks all over the city that required some intensive cleaning – also some parks where very clear inappropriate activities were taking place,” Smith says.

“Cawthra has been identified by a number of residents in the Church-Wellesley area as having different conflicts.”

Representatives from parks and recreation, operations and maintenance staff, police, residents and users of the park are to be included in the study. It’ll take a month or so to complete a report.

Says Smith: “There are going to be some issues where people say, ‘Look, this activity is going on in the park – people having sex in bushes, people doing drugs.'”

The goal, she says, is to “physically clean it up, and clean it up in terms of having appropriate activity.”

That might mean cutting down trees, shrubbery, and other camouflage.

Notions of installing more spotlights are being bandied about, too.

“It’s a very intense park, the way it’s used,” says Smith.

“We’re going to be looking at the design of the park. Are there places where perhaps the layout needs to be changed in some way? Are there bushes or trees that need to be trimmed or cut back?

“Certain things, like adding lighting is very expensive, so that’s something that might be a little bit down the road, whereas tree-trimming is fairly inexpensive.”

The audit was announced less than two weeks in advance by James Dubro – chair of the Church-Wellesley Neighbourhood Police Advisory Committee. The timing didn’t allow for publicity in Xtra.

Dubro says Smith is commissioned to put together a group to monitor park activities and identify safety concerns.

But he’s not sure that Cawthra’s foliage should be destroyed.

“Fewer green spaces?” asks Dubro, who also serves as media chair for the June 13 Committee. “There’s so few now. I can’t see why they’re doing that.

“I certainly wouldn’t advise anyone to put more lights in.”

Jearld Moldenhauer – who recently discovered that a healthy birch he planted as a memorial for the late James McPhee had been hacked down by a city worker – sees an anti-sex crackdown that goes beyond Cawthra.

Moldenhauer says he recently went cruising in High Park. Two traditional gay spaces are gone.

“Enormous areas of large trees have suddenly disappeared -clear-cut,” Moldenhauer says.

“I don’t think this has anything to do with safety.

“I figure if they won’t tell me that my memorial tree was cut down, they’re certainly not going to honest about anything else.”

Smith, however, is quick to note grumbles from Cawthra-area residents on everything from dog poo to drinking and drugs. She says she will encourage area residents to use the park for more appropriate activities to drive the bad stuff out.

But, she says, “You’re never going to get rid of all the bad stuff.”