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North End residents search for answers on why their neighbourhood playground has not been improved in a decade

Creighton Street playground is “falling apart”

In the middle of Creighton Street, a small playground sits with garbage and decaying wood scattered on the ground.

Though this playground is central to many families in the community, some area residents, like Carolyn Sampson, who has lived in the housing block next to the park for over 30 years, are starting to fear for the safety of their children.

“My grandchildren don’t play there. It’s falling apart. I don’t trust it. It’s been that way for years,” she said. “The city used to come and clean it when they used to keep garbage cans out there, so it must have something to do with the city.” 

Halifax Regional Municipality’s operating budget for 2023/2024 is $979.4 million with $13.2 million of that budget designated for parks. 

Municipal playgrounds are due for inspection once every eight weeks, while basketball courts are to be inspected once a year. So why are playgrounds around the corner, such as the playground at Joseph Howe Elementary School, being maintained but not this one?

This playground doesn’t appear on the list of parks on the Halifax Regional Municipality’s list of Parks Capital Outdoor Recreation Projects.

Behind the playground, stands an unkept basketball court. The basketball hoops are covered in rust and the mesh netting is gone.

Malcolm Freedle lives across the street from the park and thinks improvements are in order. 

“It’s always been a dingy place,” he said. “We need a solution for fixing the park. It’s important.” 

This area of Halifax has dealt with displacement issues for decades. 

Urban renewal in Halifax has led to the displacement of Halifax’s Black community since the 1970s. More recent development on Gottingen Street and nearby sidestreets has led to gentrification, pushing many into more expensive accommodations, or out of the area entirely.

Urban renewal projects put in place by Gordon Stephenson in 1957 led to the destruction and relocation of many neighbourhoods across the city including the destruction of Africville.       

Directly after the Stephenson project yet before the destruction of Africville, debates over a proposed “slum clearance” of parts of Halifax’s North End began. An area which housed the working class, the unemployed and the majority of Black Haligonians. 

Halifax’s Slum Clearance and Public Housing Committe was created in 1951. The committee held public hearings, which proposed the removal of North End neighbourhoods, until 1956. While a precise outline of which streets were to be cleared frequently changed, the proposal centred on Maynard Street and Creighton Street, a neighbourhood which held over 1,200 African Nova Scotians. Which at the time, was nearly three-quarters of the city’s Black population. 

The committee has since removed Slum Clearance from their title, yet photos of this playground leave one feeling like they are living in 1950s Halifax. 

Halifax local Linda Harper thinks it would benefit the community if the playground was updated. 

When asked about the state of the park, Harper said it was “terrible and sickening.”

“It would be a very big benefit to have the playground updated,” she said. “They are upgrading other playgrounds, why not this one.” 

Provincial property records suggest the playground is part of the land connected to the housing block next door owned by the City of Halifax Non-profit Housing

The Dalhousie Gazette reached out to Ryan Nearing, a public affairs advisor for HRM, regarding whether the property was still an active park. He did not answer the question but provided The Dalhousie Gazette with a link for the Parks Civic Support Program

Malcolm Freedle lives across the street from the park and thinks improvements are long overdue.

“It’s always been a dingy place,” he said. “We need a solution for fixing the park. It’s important.” 

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