Coun. Ken Christian may have opened a pandora's box Tuesday when he suggested the City sell off its neighbourhood tot lots and put the money into bigger parks projects.
But he doesn't have the backing of the City's park plan, although the document is still in draft form.
Christian's comments on tot lots — those little one or two house sized properties scattered throughout neighbourhoods — came during a council workshop looking at where the parks plan is at.
"Tot lots were a concept of the 1970s. Now I don't think people use them, but we have to maintain them," he said. That maintenance is expensive, so he'd like to see them sold off and the money invested in larger parks.
"I don't think we can afford that any more," he said.
Those were fighting words for Coun. Donovan Cavers, who disagreed with his colleague's point of view.
"They're important when people are living in denser areas," he said. The City's statistics show Kamloops doesn't have a big percentage of community and neighbourhood parks, he added.
Coun. Nancy Bepple said tot lots should be kept in the areas where there are multi-family residences, as they wouldn't have back yards for children to play in.
Mayor Peter Milobar cautioned council about opening up the tot lot debate, as the draft parks plan calls for keeping them and even considering some in new developments.
City parks planning supervisor Mike Doll said the City faces a challenge in creating any new parks in older, established areas of town because there's no land available. So while tot lots are expensive to mow and water, they provide a service to those areas.
"I think if we tried to eradicate them, we'd get hung," he said.
Resident Kyla Erlandson would probably agree. She and her one-year-old son Jack use the Moose tot lot on Schubert Drive three times a week.
"We come in the afternoon and play. It's on the way to an elementary school, day cares come here. I don't think you can put a value on it," she said.
If the City focused only on larger parks, that would limit people's ability to walk to a green space, she said.
Erlandson doesn't have a lot of yard space, so the tot lot is a substitute back yard for her and her son.
Back at council, Doll mapped out some of the other aspects of the draft parks plan.
Input has come from public open houses and focus groups.
The City has 76 parks, including 11 considered to serve citywide, nine community parks, 21 neighbourhood parks, 10 linear parks and 25 tot lots.
They cover 374.7 hectares, or 4.33 hectares per 1,000 population. The B.C. average is 2.51 hectares per 1,000 residents, while in Vernon, park space is at four hectares and in Kelowna it's 2.2 hectares.
Citywide parks span 243.7 hectares, community parks cover 48.1 hectares, neighbourhood parks measure 46 hectares, linear parks are 31.7 hectares and tot lots use 5.2 hectares.
Doll said the surveys and other inputs showed residents are generally happy with existing parks, but want more information about trails, better signage, more connections between parks and more safety.