The Town of Tillsonburg could have a new, permanent Christmas tree at the Broadway-Oxford Street parkette in time for the holiday season.
At Monday’s virtual Town Council meeting, Mark Renaud, executive director of the Tillsonburg Business Improvement Area, said the BIA is proposing a revitalization of the parkette, beginning Phase 1 with the removal of the fountain stone and transplanting a tree, turning it into a focal point for the downtown area.
In conversations with the Director of Recreation, Parks and Culture months ago, they discussed “how do we have a permanent Christmas tree, which is an important part of the holiday season in the town?” said Renaud. “People look forward to having a tree, which we have not had for a number of years.”
The tree would be donated by members of the community.
“We are aiming to do this with no taxpayers’ money,” said Renaud. “We have had people come forward who would like to donate time, money and resources.”
Renaud said the BIA is proposing the fountain be temporarily mothballed.
“Because it’s going to be shutdown soon for the winter anyway, what we’d like to do is convert that space to a permanent… home for a Christmas tree that will be significant in height, somewhere between 20-30 feet in height.”
The tree would be safety-cabled until it takes root. “We are asking for Council to approve Phase 1 of this plan.”
Deputy Mayor Dave Beres, noting the fountain is about 25 years old and “in desperate need of repair if not replacement,” asked Renaud if it would be a rooted tree or temporary to be replaced after the holiday season.
“We want to have this as a permanent tree,” said Renaud, noting it would be live and cable-stayed until it takes root.
“How fast do you want to get a tree in there?” asked Councillor Pete Luciani. “Can it wait for a month or does it need to be done right away?”
“We would like to get this underway as soon as possible,” said Renaud.
Luciani also asked if the fountain could be incorporated back into the parkette in a later phase.
Renaud suggested there other parkettes where it could be moved.
“I think the fountain could be used, however it has not been in good condition for a period of time. The stone has been degraded… and it’s been stained so severely, its aesthetics is not very good. That whole area, it’s been leaking all summer. There are some serious issues there,” he said, noting the interlocking stone around the fountain also needs to be rebuilt.
By taking out the fountain, he said they can refurbish it.
“I can remember when that park was put in because I was part of that committee,” said Councillor Chrissy Rosehart. “And it’s time for change down there because that stone has sometimes been very green. I think it’s nice that we’re going to revamp that whole area. I think it’s time, we need that. Things sometimes need to go away to make it better for our community and I thank you for this.”
“We have a Parks, Beautification and Cemeteries committee, and the committee has done a lot of thought and work in this area in the not-so-far past, even within the last year or two,” said Councillor Penny Esseltine.
“I feel that this project should go to that committee for discussion before final approval.
“I am wondering if they have ideas as well that could be put into this, because once you start the work, changing things is not (ideal).
“This is a long term project, so to rush it through and miss something would be unfortunate.”
Esseltine noted the committee meets Oct. 1, and the next Council meeting after that would be Oct. 13.
“It wouldn’t be that far away to be able to have their comments and their support for this project as well,” said Esseltine. “I think it would be unfortunate to bypass them as they do have a history with the BIA and the Town’s work in the downtown.”
Esseltine said they should also consider the heritage and history of the parkette.
“I would just like us to step back, observe a little bit and get some feedback from people who have been involved in this area for a number of years and volunteer for the Town.”
“I would suggest it has all the foundations for a great plan – without all the information,” said Mayor Stephen Molnar. “The ‘ask’ is to tear down a town asset, to a certain extent.”
Molnar said he does support a live, significant-size Christmas tree on the site that meets the sight parameters on a provincial highway.
“I support it,” said Molnar. “I would like us to get some more information so that we are giving you the support you need.”
“It’s just the timeline,” said Renaud, noting the only features to be removed this fall would be the centre stone and pump system.
“Everything else is going to remain as is.”
Councillor Esseltine proposed a Council resolution to direct Chris Baird, Director of Recreation, Culture and Parks to review the proposal with the Parks, Beautification and Cemeteries committee and report back to Council.
“The brick pillars are crumbling, the fountain’s leaking… the fountain does need a lot of work,” said Councillor Deb Gilvesy.
“This is just one ask, to get the Christmas tree in, it’s not asking the whole project to move forward,” said Gilvesy.
“I understand the timing,” said Molnar, “but I also understand that this is a municipal asset and I would like our talented people to have the capacity and opportunity to make a comment. I think, if we’re focused on the tree, the tree is still doable… in October.”
The resolution carried by a 4-3 vote – the proposal will go to the Parks, Beautification and Cemeteries committee for comment, coming back to Council on Oct. 13.