Charlie Ward Park getting facelift

Vincent Ball

By Vincent Ball, Brantford Expositor

The view from the front porch of the Wellington Street home where Lillian DeLiens lives is about to get a whole lot nicer.
“I can’t wait,” DeLiens said. “It’s going be lovely, just lovely.”
DeLiens has been living in her home for the past three years and the view has never been particularly good. Sitting on the porch looking towards the street her gaze is interrupted by a large grey wall that borders Charlie Ward Park.
“Well,” she said with a frown. “It’s pretty bad. Kind of drab. Certainly not much to look at that’s for sure.”
But the view will soon be changing.
On Saturday, local and out-of-town artists will assemble at Charlie Ward Park to paint a mural on the wall on the Wellington Street and Peel Street borders of the park. Plans call for the mural to have local scenes including the Grand River.
“It’s going to be awesome,” said Const. Chad Crawford of the Brantford Police Service. “We’ve got a lot of terrific artists coming in and by the time it’s all done, this wall is going to look great.
“It’s going to be a great addition to the park, something everyone in the neighbourhood has really wanted for a long time.”
Crawford is a community engagement officer with the police service and has been working with the Charlie Ward Action Group to improve the park. 
He was one of several people, including DeLiens, to take a turn with the high pressure water gun provided by Abe’s Wash to clean the wall in preparation for the painting.
“First we’re going to clean the wall, that’s what’s getting done today,” Crawford said. “Then we’re going to put a cover on it, get it ready for the painting and then on July 8 the artists show up.”
The wall has long been a target for graffiti and in those sections that haven’t been violated, it looks rather drab.
The wall mural is just one of many activities that will be taking place at the park on Saturday. A neighbourhood block party is being held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and everyone is welcome.
The party is an opportunity for everyone to see for themselves the kind of transformation that can take place when residents are determined to better their neighbourhood.
“Yes, there were some problems with the park,” said Herb Ruiss, chair of the Charlie Ward Action Group. “There were a lot of drugs, a lot of unsavoury characters hanging around and, of course, no one ever used the park.
“But there were other problems too, including the basketball court.”
The court had a pole and two nets on either side so you couldn’t play a full-court game.
But the action group, which can attract as many as 20 residents to a meeting, worked with city parks staff and members of the Brantford Police Service to make some improvements.
The basketball court was fixed and the park is now used on a regular basis, said Ruiss.
A community garden has been planted for nearby residents and there has been another big addition to the park to complement the playground equipment and well-manicured green space.
“We even have our own port-a-potty,” Ruiss said with a laugh. “A permanent port-a-potty.
“Before we’d only get one for special occasions but now it’s here all the time. You know you’ve really arrived when you have a permanent port-a-potty in your park.”
Meanwhile, even though summer is just beginning, Ruiss said he’s really looking forward to the winter.
“There’s a few of us around here hoping for a cold, snowy winter. We’ve got approval to get an ice rink here in the park and we’ve got everything we need to make it happen.”