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Nelson Park plans

With a $700,000 budget in place and the design consultant’s contract extended to deal with some last-minute concerns, Nelson Park’s upgrading could begin as soon as August, parks board officials say.

“The consultant is doing the final drawings,” says queer parks commissioner Spencer Herbert.

Explorations into a redesign of the West End park, which has remained as a primarily barren piece of land with a path meandering through it, came under the parks board’s closer scrutiny almost two years ago.

Currently, the land is part doggy toilet due to the off-leash area, part home of the Lord Roberts Annex K-3 elementary school and part magnet for drug dealers and vendors of possibly stolen goods and the crime that comes in their wake.

That’s going to change, though, as the area where dealers tend to congregate, between the school and Mole Hill, is going to become a fenced off-leash area for dogs, says Jim Lowden, director of the Stanley Park District for the parks board.

But the area with benches encircled by a band of trees, where people often meet or sit and read, will remain, he says. “We want to create what some people have called either a focus or the heart of the park.”

That will include a water feature and another children’s playground, Lowden says, noting that the playground was included as the population of children has boomed in the area. “Suddenly, we’ve got schools overflowing with kids now,” he says, “so we’ve got to go back to a number of parks and say we need more playgrounds and kid-related stuff.”

The designer’s contract was extended last month to deal with some last minor design changes from the school board as well as the fact that Mole Hill residents do not want parking on their streets. “As soon as we’ve done that, we head into working drawings and putting that out to bid,” Lowden says.

The design elements incorporated into the new design come after several public consultations. “All of the different groups got pretty much what they wanted,” says Herbert. “I think the queer community was heavily involved in planning what the park could be. I think it’s been an inclusive process.”