Centennial Park

Use of Centennial Park being allowed again in 2019



By Ron Giofu


There will be action at Centennial Park again this summer sports season, but questions still linger over what happens beyond 2019.

Town council received official notification from the Greater Essex County District School Board (GECDSB) at the Feb. 25 meeting that the 15 acres of the park it bought to construct a new public high school on can be used again this year.

“Further to our initial discussions and negotiations on this topic, the Greater Essex County District School Board is pleased to have formalized with the Town of Amherstburg the utilization of the Board’s 15-acre land, formerly Centennial Park Property, until September 7, 2019, the first weekend after Labour Day Weekend,” board planner Bryan Pearce wrote. “Please be advised that the Greater Essex County District School Board is currently working on the detailed design of the new dual campus high school and construction on the property will not occur until at least September 2019. The Greater Essex County District School Board is pleased that the Town of Amherstburg would like to continue to utilize the property until Labour Day weekend for continued recreational programming, consistent with the arrangement last year.”

That news was positive for Mary Lippert, the president of the Amherstburg Minor Baseball Association (AMBA).

“We’re pretty excited. We’ll see how it goes,” said Lippert.

Lippert said 2019 will be “business as usual” for minor baseball but wonders what will happen beyond that.

“We’re still pushing the town to build new diamonds,” she said.

AMBA will participate in the Libro Centre Master Plan process this year, Lippert noted, as “any time we can move forward with youth sports in Amherstburg, we’ll be on board with that.” She hopes that diamonds will be constructed for the 2020 baseball season.

Lippert said the town contacted her last week about the ability to play at Centennial Park this year and, while happy to get the news, she added they had been trying to get answers since September to no avail.

“It was a bit frustrating,” she said.

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)

AMBA is trying to stay positive, Lippert added, and she just hopes diamonds are constructed somewhere in town so the youth in town have a place to play baseball. AMBA uses diamonds seven days per week and she noted other user groups use other parks in town.

“We just want our kids to have some place to play,” she said. “Hopefully sooner rather than later the town can have a plan together and put it in place.”

Lippert said AMBA is waiving its late fees and registration has been extended through April 1. People can register at www.amherstburgcardinals.com.

Local swimmers still have questions, however. Yvette Erickson, who along with fellow parent Tiffany Cote, have been pressing the town for a pool, said she hasn’t heard anything official yet from the town. Erickson said she read online about the additional year but, as of Saturday afternoon, had yet to hear anything from the town. She was unsure of plans for 2019 as she did not know the condition of the Lions Pool and whether anything had been removed in terms of plumbing or filtration.

A message had been sent to council members, Erickson added, and she said she was told to be patient.

“No one has been in contact with us telling us it’s a go,” she said. “No one has been very forward with what exactly is going on.”

Erickson said “it would be fantastic if we get one more summer” at the Lions Pool, but added they would like direction one way or another so that swimmers and their parents can make future plans.

“It’d be nice to know if kids are going to have to go somewhere to swim or whether they can stay in town,” she said, noting her back-up plans are either to go to LaSalle or Harrow.

While swimmers are still in limbo, Erickson said they have been told there are options for swimming but they have heard nothing further.

“They just kept telling us there are options,” she said. “No one has given us options.”

The town did discuss potentially opening the Lions Pool during recent budget deliberations with administration telling council that it would cost approximately $78,500 in staffing, upgrades, repairs and insurance costs to re-open the pool in 2019. Councillor Michael Prue asked if the town could forgo some of of the costs, such as painting, but administration told him that much of those repairs aren’t for cosmetic purposes but rather to satisfy board of health regulations.

“The pool is in such a state that you have to paint it,” said manager of operations Sandy Lindsay.

Manager of recreation services Rick Daly said there were 912 individual users of the pool last year and estimated $11,000 in fees could be generated to offset some of the costs.

“There is another possibility we are exploring,” said Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, during the deliberations.

Erickson said she and others are willing to step up and volunteer to do some of the work if it means keeping the pool open another season.

Town assisting Rotary Club to move Ribfest to the Libro Centre



By Ron Giofu


The town will be assisting the Rotary Club of Amherstburg move its signature event to the Libro Centre.

The Rotary Club’s tenth annual Ribfest will be at its new location the first weekend of July and town council agreed to waive equipment and rental fees to use the facility with the town also assisting with site preparation. Ribfest committee members Lena Lazanja and Steve Butcher appeared before town council seeking assistance with Lazanja pointing out the club’s many accomplishments over the years, including the steady growth of Ribfest. Lazanja stated that Ribfest has exceeded their expectations.

“We want to make the tenth year our best year for Ribfest,” she said.

Butcher, who is co-chairing the committee with Ann Marie Favot, said their aim is to “amp it up and make it bigger and better.” The move to the Libro Centre means they need an extra 2,500 linear feet of fencing, repairs to the grounds and removal of berms and piles of dirt.

The new site, according to Butcher, will allow the Ribfest to grow and bring in more vendors.

“Centennial Park was excellent but (the Libro Centre site) is an acre-and-a-half more,” said Butcher.

The tenth annual Amherstburg Rotary Ribfest is planned for July 5-7 at the Libro Centre.

Butcher added that by upgrading the site at the Libro Centre, it could prove beneficial to more than just the Ribfest.

“Moving forward with this could attract other event to the area,” he believed.

Councillor Peter Courtney noted the Greater Essex County District School Board is allowing the town to use the 15 acres the board bought for another year. He questioned whether the Ribfest should go back to Centennial Park for one more year and plan to be at the Libro Centre for 2020. Lazanja believed it would be too late to switch back with Butcher calling this “an ideal time to expand.”

Deputy Mayor Leo Meloche said he would have liked to have seen the request several weeks earlier, prior to the town’s budget deliberations, but Butcher indicated plans started falling into place only recently. Butcher reiterated his belief that the improvements at the site would “benefit the town and future events at the site.”

CAO John Miceli said council approved developing a master plan for the Libro Centre as part of the 2019 budget. He added that some of the costs that the town would incur in preparing the site and waiving the fees could amount to about $15,000 but believed that total could be brought down if town staff does some of the work necessary at the site.

Other expenses could be a one-time cost, the CAO believed, with items such as fencing being able to be used at other sites as well.

Councillor Marc Renaud said he was supportive of the initiative, noting it was the Ribfest’s tenth anniversary. Councillor Michael Prue said he wanted a report on where the upwards of $15,000 in costs would come from, as the money is not budgeted, with Miceli indicating such figures would be contained in variance reports.

The Ribfest also launched a new Twitter account. People can follow it by going to @aburgribfest1.

Councillor wants updates on Centennial Park baseball diamonds and Lions Pool



By Ron Giofu


With budget season underway and baseball and swimming to follow, a town councillor is wondering about the status of some recreational amenities.

Councillor Peter Courtney wanted a report from administration on the status of the pool and baseball diamonds and said the user groups want to know what the “end goal is.” Courtney also asked for information about prospective locations for the amenities as well.

“This seems to be in limbo right now,” said Courtney.

Courtney added that “there’s been no foresight” regarding the loss of park infrastructure and wanted to know the plan to take care of user groups.

CAO John Miceli said it would be difficult for him to compile a report in time for the next town council meeting. He said at this point, he could only make recommendations pertaining to possible locations at this point.

“I can assure you there is no provision in the budget for that,” he stated.

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.

Miceli said there is a provision in the 2019 town budget for a master study at the Libro Centre to go over what specific components could be featured at the site. He took exception with implications there was no foresight by administration.

“To say we have had no foresight, I strongly disagree with that,” he said.

Miceli added the Parks Master Plan looked at a number of town facilities and recreating the same amenities that already exist in town “are not good for the taxpayers.”

The pool issue also came up at last Saturday’s budget meeting. Yvette Erickson and Tiffany Cote, who appeared before town council in January on the matter, also wanted to know the plans as Cote also pointed out a new pool is not in the 2019 budget.

Miceli said the town is looking at “pool access for 2019,” but added a new pool is not a high priority according to the Parks Master Plan. He said a new outdoor pool would be $1.5-$3 million while an indoor pool would cost $5-8 million with the decision ultimately being up to council.

Cote said children through seniors use the pool and believed it was “a shame” that it wasn’t a higher priority. The CAO responded that 913 users were reported at the Lions Pool last summer and emphasized there are “other means for short-term access.”

Erickson questioned why Centennial Park was sold “for so little,” with Miceli stating it was sold for fair market value. Miceli added most of the assets at Centennial Park are well past its lifespan. The Greater Essex County District School Board purchased the southern 15 acres of the park for $2.4 million to make way for a new public high school.

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.