By Kathy McGrath

It’s an eyesore in the middle of our community. A large piece of land that sits empty, bordered by a chain link fence. The property looks desolate and even messy at times when building materials and other refuse are dropped there.

We’re referring to the six-acre property on Bridgeport Drive, the main traffic artery servicing the housing development south of Lawrence Ave. Many Centennial residents travel that street daily as they go about their business.

The Toronto District School Board (TDSB) and the Toronto Catholic District School Board (TCDSB) purchased most of the land in 2001 when the large nautical-themed subdivision was developed. An additional smaller plot was purchased in 2007 to complete the schoolyard property.

Unfortunately, neither school board has plans to build on the property in the foreseeable future.

“The projected (student) enrolment trend in the area is stable, with a slight decline in the long term,” explained Shazia Vlahos, Chief of Communications and Government Services for the TCDSB. “These are projections that don’t warrant construction of another school.”

Enrolment trends are a factor in the Ministry of Education’s capital funding decisions regarding school construction, she said.

Responsibility for maintaining the property is shared equally between the two school boards, which follow an alternating schedule every school year. The TCDSB maintained it in 2017/18 and the TDSB is looking after it now for 2018/19.

Maintenance is limited to grass cutting and ensuring there is no significant debris on the property.

While lack of construction may be discouraging news for the neighbourhood, there is some hope for change. The boards are open to the possibility of using the land for a purpose that would enhance the community.

“The TCDSB is always open to discussions and proposals with our Board counterpart and community partners to facilitate community use of Board properties,” Shazia said.

Kathy Rowe, president of the CCRA, welcomes the opportunity to create a space like a baseball diamond, playground, dog park or green space.

“I think the community should explore a proposal for development of this unsightly property. Even taking the fence down would be an improvement,” she said. “The community down there (south of Lawrence) needs to get more active because this is their backyard.”

To that end, Kathy is inviting interested residents to attend the CCRA’s March 5 meeting at the Port Union Community Centre where the issue will be discussed.