Sunday, October 23, 2022

Briargreen AGM 2022

Briargreen Community Association Hosts College Ward and Councillor School Board Trustee Candidates
Benjamin Wood

The Briargreen Community Association hosted its first Annual General Meeting since the start of the Pandemic at the Briargreen Public School library on October 19, 2022. To a room filled with residents, the volunteers behind organization introduced themselves, touched on issues affecting the community, and solicited ideas to help set its direction for the future. The second-half of the meeting welcomed all candidates running for city Councillor in College Ward, as well as candidates vying for Trustee of both public and Catholic school boards to share their priorities for our ward and answer questions. The Q&A was moderated by BCA President Rob Welch and Volunteer Coordinator Émilie Coyle. 

BCA Business

The Briargreen Community Association is a neighbourhood organization run by volunteers in the community. Its mandate includes hosting community events, operating the rink at Briargreen Park every winter, and advocating for the resources and needs of the community.

Each of these points were addressed through the first half of the meeting by Welch. “I’ve been president for eight years. We never intended for mandates to last this long, but nobody’s been interested in taking over the role,” Welch says as part of his introduction. If anyone may be interested in this leadership position, please reach out to learn more!

The BCA slate of events include:

    • Winter Carnival / Skate Day
    • Briargreen “Great ‘Green” Garage Sale
    • Community Day
    • Movie Night
    • Halloween Costume Walk and Scavenger Hunt
    • Pub Night
    • Kids Christmas Party / Santa Parade

In 2022, the community held its Garage Sale Day in the Spring, as well as a smash-hit Community Day to kick off Summer. The Halloween Scavenger hunt has been announced for the last week of October and Costume Walk for October 30. Also announced are Pub Night (December 2) and the Santa Parade (December 11). The BCA is open to having other vehicles and entertainers join Santa along the parade route, if anyone has ideas for stand-out additions.

Also, if anyone would like to help organize a Kids Christmas Party and Crafting event to be held this December, the BCA is happy to work with Briargreen PS to host this as it hasn’t been held since 2019.

Comments from attendees included finding ways to host more neighbourhood events and have a focus on senior-focused events, activities, and supports. The BCA welcomes and encourages everyone to bring forward ideas for new social events to add to the BCA calendar. If anyone would like to form a seniors’ subcommittee to advance ideas and interests in the community’s senior and retired members, please reach out to the BCA.

The Park is at the heart of the Briargreen community. It hosts our kids’ t-ball and soccer games every spring, our winter festival and community day. This fall, the new play structure was finally installed after many delays, to the delight of the families who have been using it daily. The Park has soccer and baseball facilities, the latter of which can be booked through the City.

There was cursory discussion about the future of the park, which included working with the City to repair the basketball court, adding pickleball and/or volleyball spaces, enlarge the change rooms and install permanent bathrooms. There may also be opportunity to explore community gardens and look into the feasibility of creating a dog-walk area within the park for the community’s fur-legged residents.

To note, the garbage can that is usually set up by the rink has been moved to be by the play structure. There may be a need to move it back or request another one from the City as the rink begins operation.

The rink is managed by the BCA but paid for by the City. While snow removal is its largest expense, volunteers are needed every year to supervise the skating, flood the ice, and shovel lighter snowfalls between major snow removals. The Community does own a snow blower for the rink and is exploring selling it to purchase a larger unit with better snow throwing capacity to get more snow over the boards. Anybody who can help with the rink in the 22-23 season is encouraged to reach out for more details.

BCA Treasurer Adam Brown broke down the major revenue and expenses for the association. The past year saw BCA bring in the bulk of its funds from the rink grant (approx. $5,000) and the Membership Drive (approx. $4,000), which saw more houses contribute fees and additional donations this year than in past years. The Briarvine, which costs about $300 per issue to print and deliver, sees some ad revenue, but not enough to break even.

The well-attended Community Day returned in a grandiose fashion this year after a hiatus due to the pandemic. After event sponsorship, with special recognition of local resident and Realtor Tammy Dopson for her contribution to the festivities, and food sales, the event cost the Association less than $2,000. To note, community events and the Briarvine aren’t designed to be profit-making activities.

Other expenses include sports equipment purchases/replacement, facility rentals from the City, the Winter Festival, which is scheduled for February 2023, and the Briargreen Directory publication, which will be updated and distributed soon.

Briarvine editor Ben Wood spoke about the community newsletter, which is currently published online and printed in Fall, Winter, and Spring. The newsletter is a useful tool to share information with everyone, as not everyone uses the community’s Facebook group or website. Wood is interested in getting more pieces by residents to share their knowledge and passions in future publications of the newsletter, as well as possibly distributing an online-only summer edition.

Attendees mentioned a yearning for the classifieds that were present in past iterations of the Briarvine; because it isn’t published as often as it had in the past, classifieds aren’t as effective. The Facebook group is a useful forum for classified-like content, though in recognition that not everyone is on the platform, Wood and Social Media Manager Kirk Sutherland can explore using the website to compile products and services offered by Briargreen residents, as well as the products and services that community members recommend based on their experiences.

Sutherland touched on the active Briargreen Facebook group as a great resource to neighbours to connect and make recommendations to one another. In contrast, the Briargreen Twitter account is sparsely used. The community also has a Discord channel that it has experimented with in the last year. Residents are encouraged to join all three, as well as the email list where the BCA sends reminders and community-related content via Mailchimp.

The BCA is looking to modernize its website, which currently does feature community news and a Google Calendar-based calendar that residents can add to their own digital calendars. The goal is to have a more dynamic and up-to-date website with the ability to process membership fees electronically through verified payment platforms like PayPal as an alternative to the cash drive. This would also make directory changes and updates more efficient.

Attendees did ask about the directory and whether it will be made available online. In order to control privacy, the directory is only provided as a hard copy and should not be copied or distributed electronically. Holger Lambeth was recognized for his efforts and hard work maintaining the Briargreen Directory over the past decade-plus. A longtime member of the BCA, Lambeth and his wife are moving back to England this fall.

Lastly, there were neighbourhood priorities that got some attention. The BCA spoke about its work to introduce the speed camera on Greenbank, as well as traffic calming measures on Meadowbank and Ashgrove – the main arteries of Briargreen. One attendee noted that however difficult it was to have them installed, they have been effective. Additional possible calming measures, like more flex post signs or a lower maximum speed limit would take more consultation with residents and the city.

Briargreen, like many Ottawa neighbourhoods has seen an increase in the number of dogs though the pandemic. This has increased conflicts between some neighbours and turned the Park, which is designated as no dogs allowed, into makeshift dog-walks at times throughout the day. More consultation about permanent solutions to work for dogs, dog owners, and all other residents will be needed. One idea that got brought up would be to connect with Ottawa By-Law Services to give a presentation or information to everyone about best practices and behaviours for dogs, and cats who wander our streets as well, to the neighbourhood.

BCA Board Members Jen Seidler, Lindsay Ehman, and Maia Brown were also in attendance. Christina Catley, Liz Anderson, and Elaine Murphy were introduced but were unable to attend.

Candidates’ Discussion

Once the BCA business portion wrapped up, Welch and the BCA opened up the floor to the municipal candidates to give introductions to the crowd. All five  College Ward candidates were in attendance: Laine Johnson, Wendy Davidson, Pat McGarry, Granda Kopytko, and Vilteau Delvas.

After their introductions, each candidate was given 1-3 minutes to answer questions crowdsourced by attendees. These topics included:

    • Dog parks and green spaces in and around our community
    • Improvement of bicycle infrastructure and working with mayors
    • Managing intensification and its impact on services, traffic, and safety
    • Outline top two priorities for each candidate, and comments on senior supports and municipal tax rates for residents

All school trustee candidates for the Ottawa Carleton District School Board and the Ottawa Catholic School Board were invited as well to meet our residents and introduce themselves. OCDSB candidates Amanda Presley and Steven Warren were in attendance, as well as OCSB candidate Melissa Fraser-Arnott.

They each introduced themselves, spoke about the importance of a board trustee and their ability to act in that role, and touched on an audience question about the state of mental health of educators, education workers, and in schools.

Gemma Nicholson for OCDSB, and Glen Armstrong, Eugene Milito, and Patrick Suwalski for OCSB were invited but did not attend.

The Ottawa municipal election is Monday, October, 24. For more information on the candidates running to represent Briargreen, please see the following:

Your Friendly Neighbourhood BCA

The Briargreen Community Association is comprised of a team of volunteers that live in this community. Please contact if you have comments, suggestions, or wish to get involved in any way to support the community and any of the current initiatives it puts on throughout the year — or any brand new ones you wish to champion.

Your BCA Team:

    • President: Rob Welch
    • Secretary: Liz Anderson
    • Treasurer: Adam Brown
    • Volunteer Coordinator: Émilie Coyle
    • Social Media and Website: Kirk Sutherland 
    • Briarvine Editor: Ben Wood
    • Event Planners: Christina Catley & Jen Seidler
    • Youth Representative: Maia Brown
    • Members-At-Large: Lindsey Ehman & Elaine Murphy