Community clean-up reveals progress and future challenges
By Mike Pearson, News staff
In less than 20 years, Judy Kloosterman has watched Warden Park go from hosting bush parties to family birthday parties.
The positive changes were apparent during last Saturday’s Riverdale neighbourhood clean-up day, but there were also signs that more work needs to be done.
Kloosterman, a community developer with the Riverdale Community Planning Team, credits neighbourhood youth with generating positive change in the multi-cultural community. The Riverdale neighbourhood is bounded by Centennial Parkway to the west, Lake Avenue to the east, Barton Street to the north and Queenston Road to the south.
“I’m so proud of our youth of Riverdale,” said Kloosterman during Saturday’s annual clean-up event.
Kloosterman has lived in the area since 1981 and became actively involved in social justice issues by the mid-1990s, when she happened upon a bush party in progress. She asked some of the youth what they wanted to see in the area, and was informed of their preference for an outdoor basketball court.
Today there are two outdoor basketball courts at Warden Park and four play structures.
Despite the improvements, Saturday’s clean-up day showed evidence of continued bush party activity, with several empty beer bottles fished out of the stream and wooded areas. A discarded mattress and shopping cart were found, plus graffiti on one of the play structures.
But Kloosterman said improvements to the park, along with a bike trail and unique natural water feature, make the venue perfect for family outings. The Riverdale Community Planning Team is currently hosting a series of meetings aimed at establishing a five-year plan to improve the quality of life for neighbourhood residents. Meetings are held on the last Saturday of each month until November at Dominic Agostino Riverdale Community Centre at 150 Violet Dr. from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. The next meeting is May 31. Free childcare is available.
Along with challenges in the areas of tenant housing and neighbourhood safety, the meetings aim to address issues of food security and recreational opportunities.
Kloosterman said the four most common languages in the area are Urdu, Arabic, Punjabi and Hindi.
Muneeb Muzaffar, youth representative on the community planning team, and friend Abdullah Hamidi were both lending a hand during Saturday’s clean-up. Both are 16.
“I just want to be a part of the community and help the community,” said Muzaffar.
Ravinder Singh was also eager to help out. Singh, a former police officer in his native India, recently moved to the area after living in the U.S. for a decade. He’s currently looking for work, but isn’t afraid to get his hands dirty. Singh hopes to encourage other members of the Sikh community to get involved for the betterment of the neighbourhood.
“We are giving back to nature”, said Singh, during Saturday’s clean-up.