Rick Murray

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.

Goodfellows brighten holidays for families in Amherstburg



By Ron Giofu


The holiday season was a bit brighter for over 100 families in Amherstburg thanks to the AAM Goodfellows.

Goodfellows president Rick Murray reported that they distributed 136 food baskets this year, up three from 2016 totals.

“It’s a good sign generally with the economy,” said Murray.

Volunteers were busy packing Goodfellow boxes just before the Christmas holidays.

The Goodfellows raised roughly $11,000 in newspaper sales alone with the donations coming on top of that. The newspaper sales occurred on downtown streets and in front of businesses the weekend of Dec. 8-9.

Murray added they also had “more toys than we know what to do with” but volunteers found homes for all of them.

“Money-wise, we did well. Donations are still coming in,” Murray reported.

Murray, a retired Amherstburg fire chief, was also pleased with the number of volunteers that came to the Columbus Community Hall just before Christmas to help pack the food baskets. Many had ties to the Amherstburg Fire Department but other people also joined them as well to ensure the food and toys got packed. Murray took note of the number of young people that turned out to help as well.

Fred Bertrand and his grandson Mason Long helped pack the peanut butter as part of the Goodfellows’ baskets just before Christmas at the Columbus Community Hall.

“It’s always nice to see the kids out,” he said. “It’s nice to get the young ones out and get them used to it. Hopefully, they take over from us one day.”

Murray stated “it’s always nice to have the help” and said it was a successful year overall.

“It’s been a great year,” he said. “As usual, every year we seem to get by and manage everything.”

Goodfellows raise approximately $11,000 in newspaper sales



By Ron Giofu


The AAM Goodfellows hit the streets for the 34th consecutive year and did well with their newspaper sales.

Volunteers, including Amherstburg firefighters and others from within the community, were out Friday night and Saturday morning selling papers on the downtown streets and other locations. They raised about $11,000, said Goodfellows president Rick Murray.

Assistant deputy fire chief Ron Meloche sells Goodfellow newspapers on Sandwich St. S.

“We did pretty good,” he said. “We were pretty close to last year’s money that we raised.”

The papers were supplied by the River Town Times.

Murray said donations were up slightly on Friday night but down slightly Saturday morning. Overall, he was happy with the final total.

“It goes up and down,” he said of the yearly totals. “It fluctuates. Sometimes, it depends on the weather.”

The AAM Goodfellows also receive numerous donations from church groups, organizations, private individuals, unions and other sources, he added. At the present time, they have received $4,000 in donations for this year’s Goodfellows campaign.

Jim Fryer sells papers on Dalhousie St.

There are at least 124 food baskets to be distributed this year, Murray stated, with people eligible to request a basket by calling 519-736-2845. The deadline is this Friday (Dec. 15).

The baskets will be packed at the Columbus Community Hall on Richmond St. starting at 4 p.m. Dec. 20. Distribution will be Dec. 21 from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

Murray said more volunteers are always welcome.

Capt. Brad Brush helps the cause on Sandwich St. S.

“This wouldn’t happen without volunteers,” he said. “We’re always looking for people to help.”

Roughly 40 volunteers helped sell the newspapers over the two days on the weekend.

AAM Goodfellows distribute 135 baskets to those in need



By Ron Giofu


The AAM Goodfellows came to the aid of those in need again in 2016.

AAM Goodfellows president Rick Murray said newspaper sales were good, as they totaled between $12,000-$13,000, and they distributed 135 food boxes right before Christmas.

That number was up from 130 boxes last year.

Spencer Duby pushes a loaded cart of food items that was going into Goodfellows baskets Dec. 21. The AAM Goodfellows donated 135 food baskets to those in need just prior to Christmas.

Spencer Duby pushes a loaded cart of food items that was going into Goodfellows baskets Dec. 21. The AAM Goodfellows donated 135 food baskets to those in need just prior to Christmas.

“It goes up and down depending on the economy,” said Murray.

The 130 boxes was one of the lowest numbers they have had, he added, with the highest being in the neighbourhood of 170. All of the food and toy items are distributed strictly in Amherstburg, he added.

The AAM Goodfellows work with Sobeys to acquire the food, said Murray.

Volunteers help pack the Goodfellows food boxes at the Amherstburg Knights of Columbus Hall. From left: Alexis Baird, Erin Baird, Lucas Baird and Lois Martin.

Volunteers help pack the Goodfellows food boxes at the Amherstburg Knights of Columbus Hall. From left: Alexis Baird, Erin Baird, Lucas Baird and Lois Martin.

“Everything comes from them,” said Murray.

Toys aren’t the Goodfellows’ mandate, he continued, with the food being the focus. However, the Amherstburg firefighters’ toy drive allowed them to include the toys in the food boxes as well.

Between the chickens, potatoes, canned goods and other food items, it allowed families to eat thanks to the Goodfellows for a few days.

“There’s enough food for a couple of meals,” said Murray.

Photo by Tom Kilgallin

Photo by Tom Kilgallin

Photo by Tom Kilgallin

Photo by Tom Kilgallin

There were a lot of volunteers out both selling the newspapers and packing the food boxes, and Murray pointed out number of the volunteers were young.

“It’s always great to get the young kids out here,” said Murray, adding they will eventually be needed to take over from the older volunteers.

AAM Goodfellows give out 141 boxes of food and toys to those in need


Amherstburg firefighter Mark Stock capped this year's "Stuff a Fire Truck" toy drive Dec. 22. AAM president Rick Murray (right) accepts on behalf of that organization.

Amherstburg firefighter Mark Stock capped this year’s “Stuff a Fire Truck” toy drive Dec. 22. AAM president Rick Murray (right) accepts on behalf of that organization Hüpfburgen.

By Ron Giofu


The annual AAM Goodfellows drive is over for another year as 141 boxes of food and toys have been donated to community members in need.

AAM Goodfellows president Rick Murray said the number of boxes given out was slightly lower than it was in 2013.

“Last year, we had 149,” said Murray. “We’re down a little bit this year.”

The retired fire chief added there were a lot of people helping to pack the boxes full of food and toys with the packing taking place at the Amherstburg Knights of Columbus Hall Dec. 22.

Volunteers help unload potatoes at the K of C Hall Dec. 22. The potatoes were just some of the food items that were packed for those in need by the AAM Goodfellows.

Volunteers help unload potatoes at the K of C Hall Dec. 22. The potatoes were just some of the food items that were packed for those in need by the AAM Goodfellows.

The distribution took place from the same location the next day.

“We’ve got some really good help this year,” said Murray.

Members of the Amherstburg Admirals Jr. C hockey team were on hand as were students from General Amherst High School.

“We need some young blood to start taking over from all of us old folks,” Murray joked.

Murray added that it was important to start teaching the younger generation about giving back and helping the community. He thanked all of those who donated towards this year’s campaign, including Sobeys for selling the food at cost and the River Town Times for helping to print the newspapers that were sold Dec. 12-13.

Newspaper sales generated $12,000 for the Goodfellows while they also collected an additional $6,000 in other donations.

All the toys were donated, Murray pointed out, with a “Stuff a Fire Truck” toy drive helping to fill the boxes. Amherstburg firefighter Mark Stock helped co-ordinate that drive. Murray said they try to ensure children up to 12 years of age get the donated toys.