Park plays pivotal role in local athletics


By Karen Fallon

Centennial Park is a municipal ‘jewel” that needs to be upgraded and maintained council was told at Monday nights meeting.

In a presentation to council by David Scott, John Rudac, Jill Stoyanovich, and two student athlete representatives Meaghan Marton and Brandon Allen, the town was asked to restore the municipal park to its former glory.

Accompanying the delegates from General Amherst was a large number of local students who packed the council chambers in a show of support.

Members of the committee, formed to ensure the maintenance and restoration of Centennial Park, echoed the sentiment that the park should remain a center for football, track and field, tennis and other recreational activities.

In 1983, says Scott, cooperation between General Amherst and the town resulted in an athletic facility that met the needs of local schools.

“At that time it was the envy of every community in Essex County and southwestern Ontario, including the university,” said Scott. “All the track meets came here…it was well used.”

However, he added, since then the park has not been maintained and it has come to the point where the track, football fields and tennis courts are in poor condition.

According to the speakers the location of the park is seen as pivotal to accommodating the 2,000 students from Amherstburg area schools, who can walk to it in 10 to 15 minutes.

Stoyanovich says without Centennial Park the school’s athletic program would be severely compromised.

“We are known province-wide for our significant number of all-Ontario teams and individual athletes,” said Stoyanovich, who noted that Amherstburg is home to a premier Boston Marathon qualifying race.

Stoyanovich says as the town has entered a bid to host the Ontario Senior Summer Games and the ParaSport Games its facilities will be examined by Sport Alliance Ontario.

Such an examination of Centennial Park, in its current condition, would not bode well for the town, she continued.

Former Amherst student Marton, who won a gold medal for the 800-meter race at the Grand River Invitational, says that several years ago the school had the largest track team in the county. However, the condition of the track is now deterring students from joining the program.

Scott says that the school is losing students to Sandwich Secondary and Essex High School because both schools have superior athletic facilities.

During the presentation several delegates spoke of “rumors” that the town was considering selling a portion or the entire park.

Councillor Diane Pouget says this grew from an open house held by the municipality designed to gather input regarding the destiny of the old arena. It was there that a question was featured: “Do you want to sell part of the park or all of the park.”

However, because advertising for the open house had never included the issue of Centennial Park at the next council meeting she raised the subject and it was dealt with.

A number of council members echoed the opinion that the facility should remain  a municipal park.

Councillor Robert Pillon, says when earlier deliberating the new recreation complex information was gleaned from local user groups. However, no one from the high school was contacted at that time.

“Going back over 38 years of miss-steps isn’t going to serve anybody…we need to look how to move productively forward,” said councillor John Sutton. “Council is certainly interested in working with the high school and trying to see if we can’t come up with remedies.”

Pouget’s motion that the request from the group be forwarded to budget deliberations and review was passed by council.

She also requested that administration be directed to provide council with a report regarding the agreement between the Town of Amherstburg and the Greater Essex County Public School Board regarding the condition of the track, tennis courts and football field including the cost of repairs to complete the work.

This motion, said Pouget, should serve as a commitment to the community that council is dedicated to “preserve, refurbish, and maintain Centennial Park in its entirety.”

The motion she continued, shows the town’s commitment to health and safety.

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