H. Murray Smith

Parks committee wants remaining Centennial Park acreage put back in parkland inventory

 

 

By Ron Giofu

 

The town’s parks and recreation advisory committee wants to ensure that at least part of Centennial Park remains Centennial Park.

The committee will be recommending to town council that the 12 acres of Centennial Park that wasn’t sold to the Greater Essex County District School Board return to the parks inventory. There has been concern over the fate of the land after the other 15 acres was sold to the public school board to accommodate a new high school.

The parks and recreation advisory committee met last Wednesday night in the council chambers with CAO John Miceli and Mayor Aldo DiCarlo at the opposite end of the chamber ready to address questions. Miceli maintained that the parks master plan, which lists Centennial Park as “N/A” by the consultants, is not finalized and “those 12 acres could be added back into the inventory.”

Councillor Diane Pouget, who is one of two council members on the committee as well as Councillor Jason Lavigne, indicated she didn’t recall any previous statements by Miceli that the 12 acres could be reinserted.

“Unless I’m deaf or hard of hearing, not once did I hear you say it could be added back into the plan,” Pouget told Miceli.

Dante Pagliaroli, who chairs the committee, noted he met with Miceli and that the town still has use of the pool until November and that there was “no plan and nothing definite” for the 12 acres on the north end of the park. Vice chair Pat Catton questioned why the 12 acres was removed from the parks inventory to begin with.

“To remove them, it seems premature,” said Catton. “I don’t understand the prematurity.”

Miceli maintained that the parks master plan remains in draft form and that it shows Amherstburg has an “abundance” of parkland. He reiterated that adding the 12 acres back into the plan “is not a problem.”

“Why take it out in the first place?” Catton pressed.

Miceli responded that the town offered land at Centennial Park and the Libro Centre for the public high school and that if there were errors made in the plan, “we’ll get them adjusted.”
Alex Smith, whose father was H. Murray Smith for whom Centennial Park was named, said he is “adamantly opposed” to any thought of getting rid of the park entirely.

Smith indicated he is in possession of bylaws and related documentation regarding the park being named for his father, a former mayor.

“If you want to test me, test me,” he said.

Smith also wanted to know who approved removing the park from the town’s inventory of parkland.

“I guess it goes to show when someone goes and does something for the town and has been gone for 21 years, you just forget about him,” he said.

Larry Bertrand worried about traffic in the area of Centennial Park when the school is built, adding he lives in the area and “I can’t back out of my driveway now.” Lavigne said the previous council identified moving recreational amenities to the Libro Centre, such as the baseball diamonds, and that it was the school board and the province that wanted Centennial Park.

“The location was chosen by the school board,” he stated, adding the town risked losing the school had they not gone along with it.

Rick Murray stated the issue was the 12 acres and the fact residents “want it back in the master plan. It should be designated as it was before.” Murray said it should stay recreational “which is what the property is designated for.”

Murray added his belief that the park should not be sold as excess land and continue as a recreational site in Murray Smith’s memory.

Lavigne said nothing has been removed and that there are no “behind the scenes” activity going on otherwise.

“If the public decides we want that as a park, no problem. No problem at all,” said Lavigne.

Pouget thanked the residents in attendance for supporting the notion to keep Centennial Park’s 12 remaining acres as parkland but Gord Freeman wondered why there was an in-camera meeting on the issue. Freeman believed that unless a sale was under discussion, the future of the park’s usage should have been done publicly.

Miceli questioned what motion Freeman was referring to and questioned where he was getting his information.

“I’m just assuming,” responded Freeman, “so I’m asking a question.”

John Corbett asked if the new high school has to expand at some point in the future, where they would expand to if the 12 acres are no longer available. He said General Amherst students have been “shortchanged” as it relates to available fields and now they would have to go to the Libro Centre.

Miceli said Centennial Park “has been mismanaged by the town for the last 40 years” and the current council wants to centralize uses at the Libro Centre.

The committee discussed possibly using the 12 acres for a splash pad, tennis courts and other features currently at Centennial Park. Lavigne said some of those could go on the high school’s property, noting the town doesn’t know the plans for the remaining 15 acres after the school itself has been built. Lavigne added that there are no plans for a track at the new school site “even if there was 100 acres.”

There is also 84 acres at the Libro Centre that can be further utilized for recreational purposes.