More comfort needed at Pinafore Park comfort station?

city_scope_logo-cmykFor well over a century, Pinafore Park has served as the city’s playground. Family gatherings, seniors’ picnics, the Fire Muster and Canada Day celebrations to document just a few of the activities that attract residents and visitors to this green oasis.
Alas, a corner of the park is known for a far darker reason.
Torn down earlier this month, the nearly 60-year-old washrooms were the subject of interest on several truly disturbing websites.
Their internet reputation was brought to our attention by an individual we will refer to as Chris, a victim of childhood sexual abuse.
He started sending photos of the men’s washrooms, many of them downloaded from adult websites.
As Chris describes it, “Pictures included here are from a website that is for adults but some youth are being involved or targetted. This is but two examples of two men looking for younger males. The two here are or say they are from the London area. They are trying to make contact with an 18-year-old. Both offering money to an 18-year-old. I am sure it is a concern, as Pinafore Park is mentioned.”

_20140819_142134Taken from a screen shot on one of these websites is this description of the Pinafore Park washrooms.
“Category: washrooms. Glory Hole?: No. Just your everyday type washroom but wooden holes made in it.”
The last comment refers to small holes strategically drilled in the wooden walls of the stalls. Holes no more than a couple of feet from the urinals making it easy to spy on visitors, including young boys using the facilities._20140820_034144
Director of Parks and Recreation Ross Tucker confirmed the existence of the holes but downplayed any threat.
“We got the same pictures. We plugged them up and talked to the police about them. It’s nothing new. When I first started here they talked about them. And that was 33 years ago.”
The photos are the same ones forwarded to us from Chris, who Tucker portrayed as “That guy was pretty intense.”
St. Thomas Police Const. Jeff DeLeeuw also confirmed existence of the peep holes.
“I know a couple of times — and this is going back a little while — there was a bit of a problem with someone who kept drilling holes in the sides of the stalls. That was a growing concern and it seemed to fade off there for a while. I don’t know if it has ever come back. I haven’t read any calls recently.”
Disconcerting if you are the parents of a young boy and all the more reason to ensure they are accompanied into public washrooms at Pinafore and elsewhere.
“At any public washroom, by all means, any young child should be accompanied in a washroom like that,” advised DeLeeuw.
So, would it not make sense in the new $750,000 comfort station under construction to install security cameras at the entrances? Such is the case at similar washrooms in a Woodstock city park.
“If anything were to occur in the washrooms, that would definitely help us in identifying anyone coming and going,” stressed DeLeeuw. “If there are any allegations saying something happened at the washroom, you can watch the people leave. We can throw that out on social media and we can get them within a day.”
Well, cameras are not planned at the Pinafore Park comfort station, says Tucker.
“I think there’s a real privacy issue when you get near washrooms with cameras,” said Tucker. “You could train them on the entrance and exits, but I’m not sure. We hear all this stuff online but we don’t see a lot. We’ve got staff out monitoring the washrooms pretty well on a constant basis in the summertime. We certainly talk to the staff about that kind of activity to watch for.”
Would those cameras truly be a privacy issue? Not according to DeLeeuw.
“As long as there are signs posted saying the premises are videotaped. You’re not filming in the washrooms.”
To be fair, no wooden stalls this time. Solid metal partitions, assured Tucker.
But wouldn’t the addition of exterior security cameras add a level of comfort for parents enjoying a day out with the family in the treasure that is Pinafore Park?
The sight of a blazing fire and black smoke Thursday morning revived memories of the May 2008 inferno that rang the death knell for Alma College.
chapel demolitionjpgThis time the small fire, fuelled by rubble and branches, served as a symbolic farewell to the Ella D. Bowes Chapel crumbling in the background under the weight of an excavator bucket. Putting the chapel out of its misery after years of neglect.
A ray of light, however, as new owner Gino Reale is attempting to salvage the entrance way at the northeast corner (the tower at the left in the photo above) for inclusion in a future development.
He had hoped to save the music building at the front entrance to the Moore Street property, but that too will disappear in the near future. As for the last vestige of the former school for girls. The amphitheatre by Ross Street may yet live to carry the Alma banner, according to Reale.
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Surely the process of due diligence must be near completion and the true shareholders of Ascent (that would be the city’s ratepayers) are wondering whether a firm offer has been submitted by Spark Power Corp. of Oakville, Ont., to purchase Ascent Solutions which would include Tillsonburg-based Tiltran – acquired in 2007 – and Belleville operation Tal Trees – acquired in 2009.
We, as shareholders, are anxious to learn the value of the bid from Spark to Ascent (formerly St. Thomas Energy) and how much of a profit will result from the sale.
Laverty, John jpg

John Laverty

But we can’t help but question that nagging feeling something is amiss at Ascent. Why did acting CEO John Laverty leave his post so abruptly and with no explanation? He has done an admirable job over the past few months returning the firm to an order of respectability.

It’s not like him to bail . . . unless we’ve got a serious problem here.
As shareholders, we’d like some clarification.
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City Scope appears Saturday in the St. Thomas Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to

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