Belle Park Solar Farm

Belle Park, Cataraqui Park, Kingston, OntarioBelle Park consists of 108 acres of land situated on the western shore of the Cataraqui River. From 1952 to 1974, the area was utilized as a municipal landfill that closed as a result of mounting environmental pressures.  Part of the former dump site was re-purposed as a 9 hole golf course, which still operates 7 days a week from early April until the end of October.  Belle Park’s fairways are renowned for having some of the cheapest green and membership fees in the area, as much as 59% lower than other local courses, however that amazing deal costs tax payers and city in terms of lost revenue. Recently the Mayor and others have been critical of the fact that Belle Park has been operating at a loss that’s steadily increased over the past few years, from $15,666 in 2006 to $203,090 in 2011.  To rescue Belle Park from out of the red, staff at City Hall are hoping to study alternative operations such as transforming the site into a solar farm.  Accordingly, this week’s poll asks:
[poll id=”132″]
In October of 2009, a 90 acre parcel of land in neighboring Napanee was transformed into the First Light Solar Park.  At the time of its construction, First Light was the largest solar photovoltaic energy park operating in North America, producing over 10 million kilowatt hours (kWh) of renewable energy, enough to power 1,000 households.  The project created nearly 100 temporary construction jobs and 3 permanent positions, while the 126,000 solar panels are presently committed to lucrative 20-year contract with the Ontario Power Authority.  The prospect of revamping another one of Kingston’s cherished waterfront parks and developing additional sustainable energy sources is promising, as are the jobs and revenue associated with such a project.  Even so, I’m concerned about preserving the existing recreational and naturalized space at Belle Park.  To me, Belle Park should be able to accommodate current tenants, as well as further our goal of becoming Canada’s most sustainable city.

Why can’t we do both? Keep as much of the golf course as we can, invest in making it more attractive to entice golfers and raise green fees so that it won’t find itself on the wrong side of the ledger. What would you do with the remaining portion of Belle Park?

Thanks to Hilbert 1958 for today’s photo.

Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

7 thoughts on “Belle Park Solar Farm

  • Belle Park is the largest green space within walking distance from downtown Kingston, particularly when you consider the rest of the waterfront trail that it connects to. Whether it becomes an improved golf course or solar farm or both, the City should make sure to preserve most of the available area for jogging, dog walking, or just spending time out in nature. On another note, it would be interesting to know which other City facilities are operating at a loss; gyms, swimming pools, tennis courts, arenas, and even parks, marinas, libraries, parking lots, etc. This would pose the difficult question of which activities are worthy or not of taxpayer subsidies.

    • The waterfront trail in other parts of the City (ie near City Park, downtown) is a real disappointment, taking people blocks away from the actual shoreline due to private residential land and so on. A narrow strip of land outlining Kingston's entire shoreline would make for a great resource nowadays, but planners from way back obviously did not have this in mind. Preserving a pathway at Belle Park is certainly something we should be thinking about alongside other considerations. Would be a shame to divert pathways from this area.

    • All the recreational pursuits the city undertakes are financial losers, will most being operating losers (krock excepted). The difference with ice, sports fields etc and golf being if the city didn't offer them, no one would. While golf can be profitably offered by the private sector.

      Belle Park's loss meant every round played was subsidized by the public by about $65. Every 9 hole round! That is far higher then the rate anything else is subsidized at. Its so bad its beyond fixing. There is no feasible fee increase that would make a difference, and an increase would probably shed more users. It only has two full time staff & students so probably no savings to be found. Plus it needs a $1m capital investment.

      Doing something about it has been under consideration for many years. It was part of the service review that closed the campground, and results have gotten far worse now. Leasing it to a private operator has been talked about, but no one wants it with its poor results

      The city has a role in providing recreational facilities, but it can't be all things to everyone. It doesn't make any sense to spend that much for that few. Its time to get out of the golf business

  • When I was a kid, I actually went to a camp on Belle Park. I would like to see the golf course remain, with increased fees and promotion. But I would like to see other uses as well. Open space with picnic facilities and walking trails like Lemoine's point. Sami's comment raises a question in my mind: must City facilities break even? Are there services and facilities that city's should provide, whether or not they are able to cover their own costs? I think for example that libraries might be one of those facilities that a community just should provide, because of the spin off effects. Full disclosure – I am a library employee. Are pools also in that category? Fitness facilities? There are no user fees for parks and green space but there is certainly a cost to the city to provide those. It becomes a question of what things we value and which things provide value to the city, and I don't mean just in dollars and cents.

  • The City should not be in the business of operating a golf course – they will just keep losing money (and thus cost the taxpayer). Lease the golf course to the private sector and divert resources to running a city!

    • Perhaps there needs to be some promotional advertising to increase membership – but all that aside consider the golf course a 'service' just like the skating rink at Market Square or any park. It's called 'quality of life' paid for in our taxes.

  • I believe that Belle park could become one of kingston best parks. There is an opportunity to mix a lot of uses here.

    I am in favor of the solar farm but as long as it respects some other possible uses. I don’t want it to take over the entire park and become an eyesore. The park currently has conservation measures, that keep an eye on the possible pollutants from the original landfill, combined with teaching opportunities at the various plaques. This could be done with the solar farm as well to educate people on the benefits of solar and how it all works.

    The driving range could be converted into a safe tobagan hill for the winter and possibly a BMX or dirt jump course in the summer on the rest of the hill. A disc golf course (which Kingston is severly lacking) would fit perfectly in this space because it is very passive and is not in much need of up keep other than some grass cutting which alot of Disc Golf Associations tend to volunteer to do.

    I live near Belle Park and go there all the time with my dog. Currently people run their dogs off leash all over the golf course especially in the offseason. It would be great to have a dog park that isnt a flat square, somewhere you can really enjoy walking and playing with your dog on some tree covered terrain where your dogs could even go swimming.

    Kingston needs to connect the park to the trail system safely. Currently there is an abandoned rail bed that goes from the Village on the River apartments through Belle Park and to Rideau Street near the Wool Mill. The stretches outside the park are pretty sketchy and could easily be converted to paved lighted trails that connect with the city’s park network.

    Anyways, I believe this park could become a great asset to Kingston which could educate, activate and connect the city as well as become a source of income to the city. I’m sure Kingston will come up with something great.

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