Centennial Park

LeClair returning for another term, new high school a priority

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

There will not be a race for public school board trustee in Amherstburg and LaSalle.

Ron LeClair was acclaimed as the Greater Essex County District School Board trustee and is happy to be able to return for another four years.

“Being acclaimed is something I wasn’t expecting,” said LeClair. “Now that it’s happened, I want to focus on the next four years.”

One of LeClair’s major focuses will be what happens on the Centennial Park site.

“From the perspective of the Town of Amherstburg, I want to see the completion of the new high school sooner rather than later,” said LeClair. “We put a lot of work and effort in identifying the site.”

LeClair said the first step was to provide the template and rooms required to the province. The next step will be to get some drawings of what the new school will look like.

Ron LeClair has been acclaimed for another four-year term as the trustee for Amherstburg and LaSalle with the Greater Essex County District School Board.

“I hope to see some drawings soon,” LeClair stated.

Public input will also be coming, he added, into what the new school will look like.

“There will be some public opportunities moving forward,” said LeClair. “We always engage the public on large projects.”

LeClair indicated consultations will also include teachers as well as the general public.

“I’m confident we’ll be able to build something good for the community,” he said.

With the school to be built on the southern 15 acres of the Centennial Park site, LeClair said that it is in the “downtown area” and that many students will be able to walk to school. Road access is “suitable” and LeClair believes it will be “more traffic friendly” for the town as school-related traffic will be moved off of Sandwich St. S. where the current General Amherst High School is located.

“You are getting traffic off of the main road,” he said. “I think it will be a positive location.”

LeClair added that he is confident that proper entrances and exits will be constructed with the best interest of traffic flow in mind. The school will be built to accommodate 819 students and is tentatively scheduled to be ready for the 2020-21 school year.

“We will have some field sport space,” he stated, though it does not appear there will be a track at this point. As for what is done with the 12 acres of Centennial Park that the public board did not purchase, LeClair said that is up to the municipality.

“What the town does with the remaining portion is a municipal issue,” he said.

The new public high school in Amherstburg is not the only new build that LeClair is looking forward to. He noted he is also wanting to see the completion of the new Prince Andrew Public School in LaSalle. That new elementary school will be constructed on Judy Recker Dr., near the Vollmer Complex.

The Greater Essex County District School Board is building the new public high school on the southern 15 acres of Centennial Park (blue shaded area).
(Image courtesy of www.publicboard.ca)

LeClair touted the Greater Essex County District School Board’s math task force and he would like to see that continue.

“We’ve all been very supportive of that,” he said.

Supporting the trades and assisting robotics programs are initiatives LeClair would also like to pursue further.

“I’ve seen the success those programs have had with students,” he said.

Building on academic and financial successes are also priorities, with LeClair noting that the public board is close to eliminating its outstanding debt.

“I’m looking forward to working with the community to make Amherstburg a great place to live and attend school,” he said.

 

Parks Master Plan adopted by town council

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town now officially has a Parks Master Plan.

However, it may take a while before recommendations contained within actually come to fruition.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo believes there may be some confusion over what the adoption of the plan really means. He said the plan contains “guiding principles” on how the municipality should proceed. He said public input went into the plan but noted it isn’t a plan that can sit on the shelf and not be changed.

“It has to continually be updated,” he said.

What may have been the final baseball games played at Centennial Park were held last weekend. The Amherstburg Minor Baseball Association held a pee wee select tournament at the park. (Special to the RTT)

The “guiding document” will help future councils going forward, he stated, but added “I think when you have a plan like this, people automatically assume it’s some kind of manual.”

There are 71 recommendations contained within the plan and not all will receive immediate attention.

“It’s a long-term plan and a very expensive plan,” DiCarlo stated. “It might take ten years to do some of (the recommendations).”

One of the issues that user groups would like to see action on in the near future include the replacement of the baseball diamonds at Centennial Park. Four diamonds are being lost due to the pending construction of a new public high school at the site. DiCarlo said administration is looking into alternative measures in the short term until new diamonds can be built at the Libro Centre. He added he learned that many parents would like services consolidated in case a family has more than one child in different sports activities at the same time.

As it relates to replacing the Lions Pool, “we’re learning a lot from other municipalities” in terms of cost.

Baseball moms Jenni Pillon, Tamara Hebert and Donna Drouillard volunteer for bantam and peewee select tournaments on the weekend at Centennial Park. The tournament featured possibly the final games ever at Centennial Park, as the portion with the diamonds was sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board and will be the site of the new public high school. (Special to the RTT)

“Pools cost a lot of money,” said DiCarlo. “A pool is extremely expensive to maintain.”

The doesn’t mean there won’t be a pool as DiCarlo stated he has been in discussion with non-profit groups about fundraising for a new pool. There are also discussions over such issues as where to locate a pool.

“To think the town can do it without financial help, I don’t know how realistic it is,” he said.

DiCarlo recalled that the Lions Pool was originally put in because of fundraising efforts being undertaken.

Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest draws 13,000 people

By Ron Giofu

 

Great weather, great music and great food were the reasons organizers of the Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest were pleased with last weekend.

The ninth annual Ribfest was held at Centennial Park with four ribbers, a selection of other food vendors, craft vendors, bouncy castles and a full lineup of entertainment available for the thousands that came through the gates.

When all was said and done, organizers are reporting that 13,000 came to the Ribfest.

“They loved the bands,” said Ribfest committee chair Carl Gibb. “The weather really helped. The weather and the entertainment brings (the people) out. People like coming out and enjoying the ribs.”

Not only do the ribbers travel from outside the area to come to Amherstburg, but Gibb noted many other food and craft vendors do as well.

“The Golden Onion came all the way from Montreal,” said Gibb, noting others came from London, Chatham and the Toronto area.

“They come from all over,” he said.

Gibb believed this was one of the better years for the Ribfest but the location of future years remains up in the air. Meetings still have to occur with the Town of Amherstburg on a future location as 15 of the 27 acres of Centennial Park have been sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board for a new public high school.

Anthony Liu from Fat Boys BBQ shows some of the ribs he was barbecuing.

“We’ll have to sit down with them and see,” said Gibb.

Gibb also thanked the crowd for coming out. During brief remarks delivered from the stage Friday night, he told the public “your support of the Ribfest and the Rotary Club is always appreciated. We do this for you.”

Planning, he said, takes up the better part of a year.

Brooke Bratt, Brooke Meloche and Patty Cazabon were three of the people that attended Friday night.

“We love it,” said Bratt. “It’s so much fun. We come every year.”

Between the food, including the blooming onions, and music, Bratt said the Ribfest is “amazing.”

“Go Amherstburg!” she said. “Thank you to Amherstburg for having something like this.”

The ribbers also enjoyed their weekend, including those from Fat Boys BBQ.

“It’s amazing,” said Haley Johnson. “Everyone is so great. We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback.”

“Everyone is really friendly,” added Amanda Gallagher. “They are really good tippers.”

Approximately 13,000 came to Centennial Park the weekend of July 6-8 for the Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest. It is expected to be the last year at Centennial Park.

Mayor Aldo DiCarlo thanked the Rotary Club of Amherstburg and its Ribfest committee for “putting on a successful event this year.”

“It should not be a secret that this is a very important part of Amherstburg’s festival lineup,” said DiCarlo. “I couldn’t think of Amherstburg’s summer festival season without the Ribfest.”

Rotary Club president Joan Donaldson also thanked the Ribfest committee as well as all the judges that tasted the sauces and ribs Sunday afternoon. Donaldson said Rotary is an international organization that is a leader in its community, with one of its goals being the eradication of polio.

Buck Twenty was the headliner Friday night at the Ribfest. An entertainment committee led by Rick Rock and John D’Alimonte kept the music flowing for the three-day festival.

Winners from Ribfest saw Dinosaur BBQ Pit win in the best ribs category as ranked by the judges, with Ribs Royale coming in second and Texas Rangers third. The judges’ best sauce awards saw Dinosaur win first place followed by Ribs Royale and Fat Boys Barbecue. The People’s Choice award for sauce saw Dinosaur win again, with the public also agreeing with the judges by ranking Ribs Royale and Fat Boys second and third.

Ribs Royale were the people’s choice for best ribs, followed by Dinosaur and Fat Boys.

To see more photos from the ninth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest, view our Facebook album.

Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest this weekend, volunteers needed

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The ninth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest is this weekend and volunteers are still needed.

Carl Gibb, chair of the Ribfest committee, acknowledged that “we need volunteers” but said plans are coming together nicely nonetheless.

“Things are going well,” said Gibb.

Four ribbers – Ribs Royale, Texas Rangers BBQ, Dinosaur and Fat Boys BBQ – are anticipated to converge at Centennial Park in what will be the final Ribfest at that location. There will also the return of the Golden Onion, Elephant Ears, ice cream, specialty fries, hamburgers, desserts and more.

A wide variety of vendors are also expected to be on site.

The bands, organized this year by an entertainment committee led by Rick Rock and John D’Alimonte, feature such performers as Bad Romance, Soul Minors, Soul Delegation and Buck Twenty Friday night, the Rio Michaels Trio, Johnny Toronto, Throwback Kings, Jody Raffoul, Dusty, No Drama and South River Slim on Saturday with Sunday’s lineup featuring Adam Butcher, Back to Back, The Delvitos, and Chris Borshuk and Kelly Hoppe.

“It’s an exciting time this year because of the bands we have,” said Laura George, a Rotarian and member of the Ribfest committee.

“We’re hoping for big crowds due to the bands we’ve got,” added Gibb.

The Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest returns to Centennial Park July 6-8. Volunteers are still needed for this year’s event. It will be the final Ribfest at Centennial Park.

Organizers are hoping for the biggest Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest yet.

As for next year, the search continues for a new location. Centennial Park will be unavailable as 15 of the 27 acres was sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board for a new public high school.

“We hope to continue to work with the town. The town is attentive to our needs,” said George.

Gibb added it’s a good feeling that both the public and the ribbers want to come back every year.

The Ribfest committee will enter the weekend thinking of one of its members, as Barb Brookbanks recently passed away.

“It’s kind of left a hole,” said George. “We were able to rally and we tried to fill her shoes.”

For more information, visit www.amherstburgrotary.com and click on the “Ribfest” tab at the top of the screen.

To volunteer, contact Ann Marie Favot at 519-980-7697 or George at 519-982-2684.

The Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest runs from 12-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 12-7 p.m. Sunday.

Town gathering input on new parks master plan

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s process towards a new parks master plan continued last week.

Part of the process was a public meeting last Wednesday night at the Libro Centre, which manager of planning services Rebecca Belanger said drew about 30 people. Belanger said consultants Steve Langlois and Joannah Campbell went over the process and the recommendations that are in the report.

In all, there are 71 recommendations. Some deal with upgrades and expanded services at some parks, while other recommendations deal with how repairs and maintenance should be funded.

Among the recommendations are adding baseball diamonds to the Libro Centre, adding a soccer shelter to the Libro Centre, remove deteriorated backstops at Anderdon and Warren Mickle Parks, investigate outdoor fitness equipment at an existing park, upgrade playground surfacing to meet current accessibility standards, continue to replace traditional playground equipment with “creative and challenging” play structures and providing playgrounds within 500 metres of residents within urban areas.

The replacement of the track at Centennial Park is not recommended.

“The plan has provided an audit of the condition of all of our parks,” Belanger told the RTT Thursday morning. “It maps out the locations and comes forward with over 70 recommendations.”

Moving more sports fields and features to the Libro Centre is a possibility under the plan, she stated, with additional amenities to possibly include a second splash pad, basketball courts and a relocated skateboard park.

Belanger noted that “there are recommendations that are park specific but there are overarching recommendations also.”

Under the plan, parks would be classified as destination, athletic, leisure, heritage, civic, natural and linear, the latter including trails and greenways. A natural park is described as municipal open space and “natural properties used for conservation and passive recreational activities.”

A public survey was taken with 120 responses, Belanger added, and there were six organizations that were met with. There are opportunities for redevelopment of existing assets, she continued.

Belanger said the full draft of the parks master plan is on both the town’s website and the town’s “Talk the ‘Burg” site and public feedback is encouraged. The town hopes to have people respond by May 23 with a final draft plan to go before town council June 11.

Consultants from Monteith Brown Planning Consultants conduct a public meeting May 9 at the Libro Centre regarding the draft parks master plan. (Submitted photo)

There are also recommendations that deal with the Belle Vue property and the former Duffy’s location, but Belanger noted there will be more public consultation on those projects.

Pertaining to Belle Vue, the town is hosting two public consultation meetings on consecutive Tuesday nights regarding the future of the Dalhousie St. property. Those meetings “will be held to assess future opportunities, identify potential uses and solicit public input on proposed concepts for the renowned heritage site.”

The Belle Vue meetings are May 29 and June 5 at the Libro Centre, both scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Councillor Diane Pouget brought up the future of Centennial Park at Monday night’s council meeting, specifically the 12 acres that was not purchased by the Greater Essex County District School Board for the new public high school.

According to Pouget, the park was removed from the town’s inventory of parkland and questioned

agreements with the public school board to use the site. She also pointed out the park is named for former mayor Murray Smith, calling him “a great mayor” and stating he made many contributions towards the park’s development.

CAO John Miceli and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo disagreed with Pouget’s assessment of the status of the 12 acres. Although listed as “N/A” in the study, Miceli said when the draft plan was being written, it was not known by the consultants how much of the park would be sold.

“It does not mean it has been removed,” said Miceli, adding that council wants “opportunities” for the site explored.

Miceli doubted the public board would challenge the previous agreement about park usage, since the board is the purchaser of the adjoining lands, adding that a football field is no longer planned for the remaining acres anyway.

Pouget pressed on, stating the public has a right to know what is going on with that land and whether the town is going to get rid of it. Miceli repeated that nothing has been removed from the town’s parks inventory and that “it’s always up to council to do something with parkland. If anything does happen with the 12 acres, council will make that decision and make a responsible decision.”

DiCarlo questioned how many past bylaws Pouget was going to read, adding that issues surrounding the 12 acres was addressed in-camera.

“It will be addressed by council at a later date,” the mayor said of the 12 acres, adding Pouget was starting to get into issues that were discussed in-camera.