Centennial Park

Swimming community wants pool, council indicates it is still on town’s radar

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

A pair of local parents spoke up about the lack of a public swimming pool in Amherstburg, but town council indicated the matter is still being considered.

Tiffany Cote and Yvette Erickson, joined by a group of local young swimmers, stated their concerns to town council Monday night. The last town council sold the southern 15 acres of Centennial Park to the Greater Essex County District School Board for the construction of a new public high school, meaning the current Lions Pool will be removed. Erickson said that was a “great disservice to our youth.”

“Selling off Centennial Park which was donated land given to the children of Amherstburg so they had a place to play and call their own without replacing what is lost is detrimental to our children. Such cuts at a time of great concern about child obesity are very short sighted and will cost more in the long run,” said Erickson. “We are asking this new town council to look again at the proposals to replace everything lost to this sale including the pool and consult widely with the people of Amherstburg on these proposals. Centennial Park has been a hub for sports for our youth. The park is always busy with baseball, swimming, track and field over the summer and football in the fall. The skate park and park equipment are also used year round for local youth in the area. The beauty of this park with all its wonderful amenities is that it is centrally located.”

Erickson said the idea of moving a pool to the Libro Centre is “short sighted” as many families believe it is too dangerous to walk there. She championed the idea of a centrally located pool in a location such as the former St. Bernard School site or Jack Purdie Park with fundraising ideas such as the parkland dedication fund, the Amherstburg Community Foundation and working with service clubs.

“There are very limited things for our youth to do and the previous council has gotten rid of a major hub. The pool provided families with low cost access to a sport and as it was a public pool those who needed (Canadian Tire) Jumpstart funding were able to use it, something a private pool cannot offer. Our children deserve more not less. We live along a river community, therefore our community should focus on water safety and how to swim,” said Erickson.

Local residents, including those with the Amherstburg Sharks swim team, are looking for a new pool to be built in Amherstburg now that the Lions Pool is closed. The Amherstburg Sharks swim meet is pictured.

Cote expressed concern over families leaving Amherstburg to find a place to swim.

“The current pool was built on donated land and the money to build the pool was raised by the community. Therefore, money made from the sale should have been earmarked to relocate all amenities lost,” she said. “If a 25m pool is built, provincial swimmers can use their times from swim meets towards provincial meets. It could also be made into a fully accessible pool, one that no other municipality has.”

“I think it’s safe to say we have not forgotten about a pool,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, stating that it is still under consideration by the town.

Councillor Peter Courtney said he supports the idea of a new pool in Amherstburg and that the community supported the Lions Pool.

“It should be replaced,” said Courtney, adding that they should “fast track” the plan.

“I think our kids need a pool,” added Councillor Donald McArthur. “I think we need to find a way to make that happen.”

Councillor Michael Prue said he was intrigued by the parkland dedication fund and wondered how much money was in it. Treasurer Justin Rousseau said it currently has over $2.1 million.

CAO John Miceli said costings have been done with a new outdoor pool estimated at $1-2 million while an indoor pool would be $7-8 million. An indoor pool, should council approve one, would be at the Libro Centre to take advantage of the mechanical systems there, he added.

Miceli added that he and DiCarlo “have had discussions with a third party provider” about a new Amherstburg pool.

New councillor wants background info on two local properties and other issues

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

One of Amherstburg’s five new councillors wants to ensure that they are all “in the loop” as it pertains to issues leftover from the previous council.

Councillor Peter Courtney mentioned the seniors hub planned for the former St. Bernard School site and the northern 12 acres of Centennial Park and wanted the new council to be brought up to speed on both projects. While acknowledging some of the previous discussions may have been in-camera, Courtney still wanted his colleagues as well as himself told what the plans are and what the status of the two projects are.

Concerns over Centennial Park appear to have been prompted by recent activity that was reportedly spotted by local residents.

“Some of our constituents thought they saw surveyors out on the north end of Centennial Park,” said Courtney.

Courtney said that is parkland and is looking to have the new council informed as to what the future of that site is, as well as the neighbouring St. Bernard School site.

There was also the ongoing issue of policing expenditures for local, non-town operated festivals that the 2014-18 town council had been debating. Courtney said he would like to see that matter resolved and would also like to see the new council get a full report on the matter.

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.