Sunday, June 16, 2024

Stittsville locals must go through hoops to play basketball on street

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One has to wonder whether by-law will start wasting resources chasing wannabe Pascal Siakams throughout the entire city?

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First they came for our road hockey games. Then our little libraries. Next up: our basketball hoops.

Early on Friday morning, the small residential street of Kearnsley Way in Stittsville boasted a handful of basketball nets at the ends of homeowners’ driveways, where youngsters honed their jump shots and played games of HORSE.

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By the time the long weekend officially got underway, however, only four hoops remained, after a visit from Ottawa by-law prompted Steve Percy to tip his over and tape a “FREE” sign to its base.

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“It’s 100 per cent ridiculous,” Percy said of the hoopla that led him to get rid of his net.

Admittedly, Percy and his wife had already discussed getting rid of the net that stood at the end of their driveway for more than 15 years and which their kids have since outgrown. But it was still there for other kids to use. And now it’s not.

At issue at Percy’s and other homes on the street was that parts of the nets overhung the roadway, in contravention of the city’s Use and Care of Roads By-law No. 2003-498.

According to Roger Chapman, director of Ottawa’s By-law and Regulatory Services, “Basketball nets overhanging the roadway can pose safety issues and impede city services from conducting work, including waste collection and snow removal. Nets may become ensnared in these vehicles as they pass closely to the curb. Furthermore, when basketball nets are left at the curb, they reduce the availability of on-street parking.” When they’re not in use, he said, the nets should be properly stored on the resident’s property.

Chapman added that since May 1, the city received six complaints about basketball nets left on the city right-of-way on Kearnsley Way. All six received warnings.

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Another resident on the street, Chris Wray, whose kids use their basketball net almost constantly, said that the by-law officer who delivered the notices — residents weren’t fined, but warned to move the offending baskets — told him that it was the garbagemen who pick up the trash and recycling on the street who initiated the complaint. According to CTV, which first reported on the brouhaha, the whole affair grew out of an incident when another resident, Rob Lafleur, discovered that a Miller Waste Systems garbage truck had struck his basketball net, setting off a series of back-and-forths between the company, city and Lafleur, culminating with the visit from by-law.

Miller Waste Systems, headquartered in Markham, Ont., did not respond to a request for comment.

It is, as Percy said, 100 per cent ridiculous. It appears as though only residents of Kearnsley Way, which is about as quiet a residential street as you can imagine, were targeted. Those on neighbouring streets were left to their illegal layups all weekend long. But one has to wonder whether by-law will start wasting manpower and resources chasing and fining wannabe Pascal Siakams throughout the entire city?

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Considering the difficulty many parents say they have trying to get their children exercising and doing activities outdoors, rather than sitting in front of a screen, this doesn’t help.

“We want our kids to be healthy,” said Wray’s partner, Caitlin Kelley. “And this feels like a very backwards way to approach getting kids to play outside.”

The hoops, she adds, also help foster community. “Some older kids come over and ask permission to shoot on our net. And we tell them, ‘You don’t have to ask permission; just use it, anytime.’”

Complicating the matter is that driveways, here and elsewhere, tend to be home to homeowners’ cars. So if the solution is to move the basketball nets further from the road and into driveways, then the cars will move to the street, and what will that accomplish?

Getting a couple of youngsters to move a 400-pound basketball net on their own every time they want to play isn’t one of those character-building exercises they’ll fondly recall when accepting their NBA MVP awards years down the road. It’s a roadmap to kids opting to play NBA 2K24 on their PlayStations instead.

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Hopefully cooler heads prevail. The city by and large learned not to interfere too much with the sacrilege of road hockey games, and accommodations for free libraries are now written into Ottawa’s by-laws. The sensible solution to the basketball dilemma is to follow in the Air Jordan footprints of the City of Gatineau, where, following a 2020 pilot project that designated 50 residential avenues as “free-play” streets that allowed such activities as road hockey and basketball, the city in 2022 expanded the program to more than 1,600 streets.

I’m sure the residents of Kearnsley Way would be the first to apply.

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