Participatory budgeting

Suburbs

The city has been partnering with researchers from the University of Waterloo to try out a new process to involve residents in updating two parks. In this pilot project, the city had identified a budget to invest in two neighbourhood parks – one urban (Sandhills Park) and one suburban (Elmsdale Park). The Kitchener Pioneer Lions Club generously contributed $30,000 to these projects, as well.

Since February, we've been working with neighbours to gather ideas, develop concepts and make decisions around what they wanted to see included in these park updates. Now the votes are in and the winning park designs can be found below! 

Stay in touch with this project. Subscribe for updates by clicking the yellow box at the bottom of this page. 

Elmsdale Park

Residents voted and the winning park design for Elmsdale park is the green bundle!

 What's included

The green bundle includes:
  • chess table,
  • edible forest*,
  • ping pong table,
  • sand play area,
  • sand volleyball court,
  • basketball court,
  • more shade trees,
  • little library,
  • benches & picnic tables,
  • charcoal grill & picnic area. 

* Community volunteers will be needed to care for the edible forest.

How did we get here

STEP 1.      In February, we asked what would put the spark in your park. We heard some great ideas!

STEP 2.      In April-May, you ranked your favourites from the list of ideas that could be included.

STEP 3:      We counted your votes and developed four different park design options for you to vote on. (see below)

STEP 4:      We fund the winning park design. Construction is planned for this fall.

The blue bundle
  • soccer field,
  • climbing structure,
  • basketball court,
  • more shade trees,
  • little library,
  • benches & picnic tables,
  • charcoal grill & picnic area.
The yellow bundle
  • large traditional playground with swings,
  • basketball court,
  • charcoal grill & picnic area.
The red bundle
  • chess table,
  • climbing structure,
  • edible forest*,
  • ping pong table,
  • sand play area,
  • sand volleyball court,
  • more shade trees,
  • little library,
  • benches & picnic tables,
  • charcoal grill & picnic area. 

* Community volunteers will be needed to care for the edible forest. 

The green bundle
  • chess table,
  • edible forest*,
  • ping pong table,
  • sand play area,
  • sand volleyball court,
  • basketball court,
  • more shade trees,
  • little library,
  • benches & picnic tables,
  • charcoal grill & picnic area. 

* Community volunteers will be needed to care for the edible forest.

What happens next

Our staff will begin work on construction plans. If you would like to share feedback on the winning design or this process, please share your thoughts. This is our first time testing out participatory budgeting and we want to know what you think!

About Elmsdale Park

Elmsdale Park is a medium-sized park located at 55 Elmsdale Dr. (between Ottawa Street South and Chandler Drive). It is located in Ward 6. Grand River Transit Route #3 travels along Chandler Drive and Elmsdale Drive.

The existing playground is 20 years old. There is also a triple-toss basketball hoop, picnic table and bench, and a scrub ball diamond.

 

Sandhills Park

Residents voted and the winning park design for Sandhills park is the red bundle!

What's included

 The red bundle includes:

  • chess table,
  • community events space,
  • natural playground (logs, timbers, rocks),
  • permanent garbage can,
  • swing set,
  • site clean-up (dead trees, overgrowth, weeds, etc.),
  • benches,
  • edible plantings/food forest*,
  • native perennial and shrub plantings.

* Community volunteers will be needed to care for the edible forest. 

What happens next

Our staff will begin work on construction plans. If you would like to share feedback on the winning design or this process, please share your thoughts. This is our first time testing out participatory budgeting and we want to know what you think!

How did we get here

STEP 1.      In February, we asked what would put the spark in your park. We heard some great ideas!

STEP 2.      In April-May, you ranked your favourites from the list of ideas that could be included.

STEP 3:      We counted your votes and developed four different park design options for you to vote on. (see below)

STEP 4:      We fund the winning park design. Construction is planned for this fall.

The blue bundle
  • climbing structure,
  • Cedar & Peter St entrance improvements,
  • swing set,
  • benches,
  • edible plantings/food forest*,
  • native perennial and shrub plantings.

* Community volunteers will be needed to care for the edible forest. 

The red bundle
  • chess table,
  • community events space,
  • natural playground (logs, timbers, rocks),
  • permanent garbage can,
  • swing set,
  • site clean-up (dead trees, overgrowth, weeds, etc.),
  • benches,
  • edible plantings/food forest*,
  • native perennial and shrub plantings.

* Community volunteers will be needed to care for the edible forest. 

The yellow bundle
  • BBQ/grill with picnic area,
  • exercise stations,
  • permanent garbage can,
  • micro dog park,
  • swing set,
  • site clean-up (dead trees, overgrowth, weeds, etc.),
  • benches,
  • edible plantings/food forest*,
  • native perennial and shrub plantings.

* Community volunteers will be needed to care for the edible forest. 

The green bundle
  • amphitheatre,
  • micro dog park, 
  • site clean-up (dead trees, overgrowth, weeds, etc.),
  • benches,
  • edible plantings/food forest*,
  • native perennial and shrub plantings.

* Community volunteers will be needed to care for the edible forest. 

About Sandhills Park

Sandhills Park is a small park in the Cedar Hill neighbourhood. It is located within Ward 9. Courtland Avenue, Peter Street, St. George Street and Cedar Street South form its boundaries. Buses going into the Charles Street terminal pass by this area on Charles, Courtland and Queen streets.

The park has a small playground, informal basketball courts and soccer nets, as well as open lawn with mature trees. Paved trails cross the hills and slopes in the site. Entrance to the park is by:

  • a laneway off Peter Street;
  • a pathway descending from St. George Street, and
  • a more direct entrance from Cedar Street.    

How does participatory budgeting work? 

Participatory budgeting lets the public decide how funds for a particular project should be spent. In this case, residents lead the way in terms of vision, ideas and decision making for the park upgrades and staff provides support and advice throughout the process. It gives residents more say in shaping their neighbourhood. Here’s how it will work:

  1. You tell us what you want in your park. People living in the neighbourhoods surrounding the parks are invited to attend a meeting to generate ideas. A survey will be available online following the first meeting and paper copies will also be available for those who can’t make the meeting;
  2. You rank your favourite ideas for the park. Our experts, including landscape architects and community centre staff, can advise and help where needed, and provide costing for items that emerge from the ranking;
  3. You vote on the design you like best;
  4. We fund the winning park design within the assigned budget.

Frequently asked questions

What is participatory budgeting?

Participatory budgeting lets the public decide how funds for a particular project should be spent. In this case, residents lead the way in terms of vision, ideas and decision making for the park upgrades and staff provides support and advice throughout the process. This process gives you more say in shaping your neighbourhood. What residents decide is what receives funding.

What do you mean I get to spend the city’s money?

The city has set aside $100,000 for two parks that are ready for an update. People living near the parks will get to decide how that money is spent on the upgrades. They will work together to decide on the elements of the parks that they like, or want replaced, or suggest new things to add.

The two parks selected to pilot this process are:

  • Sandhills Park in Cedar Hill, and
  • Elmsdale Park in the Chandler Mowat neighbourhood.

How did you choose these parks?

These two parks were already identified for 2017 consultation (with 2018 construction), and funding was already earmarked from capital accounts for the participatory budgeting pilot in these neighbourhoods.

Having one project within the “downtown” and one within the “suburbs” helps us understand how PB might work in different geographic areas of the city.

Does that mean I get everything I want in the park?

While you do get to brainstorm and choose elements to add or remove from the park, there may be limits on certain items. For example, your safety is our first consideration. We cannot consider ideas or items that do not meet standards or legislation. Functional items, such as power boxes or water pumps, must remain.

Cost may also be a factor. City staff can provide costs on items on your list, so you can make informed decisions about the money you are spending. The cost estimates provided by staff include (but are not limited to) such items as site grading/drainage, base materials, structural considerations, labour costs, and inspections.

Tell me about the “participatory” part. How do I participate?

This is not government as usual. Participatory budgeting generally involves a few steps:

  1. You tell us what you want in your park. People living in the neighbourhoods surrounding the parks are invited to attend a meeting to generate ideas. A survey will be available online following the first meeting and paper copies will also be available for those who can’t make the meeting;
  2. You rank your favourite ideas for the park. Our experts, including landscape architects and community centre staff, can advise and help where needed, and provide costing for items that emerge from the ranking;
  3. You vote on the design you like best;
  4. We fund the winning park design within the assigned budget.

Who can participate?

Anyone over the age of 12, who lives in the Chandler Mowat (Elmsdale Park) and Cedar Hill (Sandhills Park) neighbourhoods, is welcome to participate by coming to the neighbourhood meetings or by filling out the online surveys that accompany each step of the PB process.

For Elmsdale Park, the boundaries are the Conestoga Expressway, Westmount Avenue, Strasburg Road, and the hydro line south of Ottawa Street.

For Sandhills Park, the boundaries are King Street, Queen Street, Highland Road and Stirling Avenue.

Who else is participating?

This project is a fantastic collaboration between a number of community partners.

  • The University of Waterloo is involved in this pilot project to help the city understand more about participatory budgeting and which methods work best in our community so that we might use this process again in the future.
  • The Lions Club has generously contributed another $30,000 to divide equally between the two parks.
  • Staff from the community centre closest to each park will help connect community members, partners and others get involved and get the word out to the most people.
  • And you, your friends, your family members, your neighbours. You are the ones who will put the spark in your park!

How do I stay updated?

The easiest way to stay updated is to subscribe by clicking the yellow button at the bottom of this webpage. That way, you’ll get a notification whenever we update the content on the page.

Why is the city doing this?

There are a number of benefits for the municipality and the communities it serves:

  1. Citizens are empowered to become more involved in government decisions that affect them.
  2. It provides opportunities to bring together groups from different backgrounds and experiences so they can shape their community together.
  3. It builds trust among government, organizations, and residents.
  4. It ensures that we spend money in a way that delivers the most benefit to each community, because not all neighbourhoods are the same.

Doesn’t the city already have a budget process? How is this different?

The city’s budget process covers all the services provided by the city whereas participatory budgeting only looks at a pot of money that is set aside for a specific project - in this case, $100,000 for each park. In participatory budgeting, the city hasn’t identified how the designated amount will be spent. That’s where you come in. This is a process led by you and your neighbours: your ideas, your decision, your park. Participation from the community is power!

What does the University of Waterloo have to do with this initiative?

The City of Kitchener and the University of Waterloo have sponsored research to test different PB methods. This is an opportunity for UW to research, design, and implement participatory budgeting from an academic standpoint.

This pilot project will test different methods to determine the strengths and challenges associated with each method and understand what works best in Kitchener. 

The UW team is co-leading with city staff in the design and execution of this pilot.

So, can I still participate in the process if I don’t want to be in the university’s research?

You don’t have to do anything that would make you feel uncomfortable. We may ask you to provide an email address if you would like updates on the project, but you don’t have to provide it.

The university will collect information at both ends of the pilot, if you consent. You do not have to participate in the research, and you are free to withdraw from the study at any time. If you do withdraw, you are still free to participate in decisions on spending money on the park. 

The city collects the data, and the university interprets it. The researchers will share their findings through academic and non-academic conferences, publications, reports, and social media. Participants will not be identified directly or indirectly in any of these materials. 

Throughout the research, you have the right to request, at any time, that the University of Waterloo destroy information that you previously provided to them. To withdraw from the study or to request that your information be destroyed, please email Prof. Sean Geobey.

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