Newton community comes together to rebuild rink, neighbourhood confidence
Published Saturday, September 15, 2012 5:54PM MDT
It was a day where at least 90 community leagues in Edmonton held celebrations to mark Community League Day, but for one league in northeast Edmonton, the day was about taking a stand against crime.
Dozens of residents in the northeast Edmonton community of Newton spent Saturday voluntarily rebuilding the neighbourhood’s outdoor skating rink. It was a job they could have hired someone to do instead – but the Newton Community League thought it was the perfect project to bring residents together.
“We decided that this is how we’re going to spend our community day, with community involvement because we think that’s kind of missing and it’s really important,” said Gerry Hofs with the Newton Community League.
“We believe the outdoor rink is really important to our community and to the kids in our community.”
But the community rebuild goes far beyond Saturday’s construction project.
The league is also trying to rebuild confidence and a sense of security as crime is no the rise in the community – including a rash of attacks on women in March when five young women were followed and had a liquid splashed in their faces.
Lori Grice’s daughter was one of the women attacked, and said the incident raised concerns about the safety of the community and the way neighbours reacted.
“What upset me as being part of a community were those people walking down the sidewalk, nobody stopped to help her until a gentleman actually realized something was wrong,” Grice said.
“Everybody just thought it was a young couple having a fight in the park.”
Grice’s daughter lost some vision in her right eye after the attack and is nervous walking down the street to this day.
It’s still not known what the substance splashed in her face was – but Grice says the liquid discoloured her daughter’s clothes according to police.
Grice said the incident made her want to become actively involved in the community and help make sure similar incidents don’t happen to anyone else.
“I became a part of this community because I wanted to see that nobody else’s child went through what my daughter went through and the other victims in this area what their children and families went through,” she said.
“It’s extremely important that any community have its members involved in initiatives to make the community safer.”
Some in the community say increased traffic, speeding and motorists taking shortcuts through the neighbourhood is partly to blame for the spike in crime.
“We have a neighbourhood right now that is a very good neighbourhood but we think we’re kind of on the tipping point. We are very conscious of not going down that road,” Hofs said.
But it’s that spike in crime that prompted the community league to launch a number of safety initiatives from revitalization projects to neighbourhood watch, to pushing for crime prevention through environmental design. Grice herself is heading up a neighbourhood foot patrol.
Hofs said the incident with Grice’s daughter and the other women who were attacked – has helped spark interest among community members to become actively involved in neighbourhood initiatives.
“What we wanted to do was turn all of this into something very positive and re-engage the community in these kinds of activities where you’re actually involved in this thing,” Hofs said.
“You cannot have somebody in your community who is hurting or suffering without helping.”
The new outdoor rink is expected to be functioning by winter and community members say it’s just the start of residents pulling together to take back their neighbourhood.
“That’s one of the reasons community leagues were formed – taking a lead in traffic initiatives, planning issues, crime prevention, building safer communities because the whole purpose of community leagues is to build community,” said Christine Brenmer with the Edmonton Federation of Community Leagues.
With files from Amanda Anderson