‘Playground work put on hold for now

Yellow “caution” tape recently put up at several local parks indicate the town is gearing up to install new playground equipment this summer.
But council sent a report, which would have authorized the proposed upgrades to proceed, back to the Operations and Facilities division on Monday night after determining several questions had to be answered.
Mayor Dan Onichuk noted that while parks at Front Street, Lillie Avenue, and Phair Avenue were included in the report, Pither’s Point Park, which also currently has no playground equipment, had been left out.
Meanwhile, Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft noted that while work is slated at the Lillie Avenue park, also known as the Legion Park, the town should be careful it doesn’t install equipment too similar to that which already is there.
If this was the case, the money earmarked for that park instead could be used at Pither’s Point Park.
Couns. Roy Avis and Neil Kabel agreed the town should carefully priorize which parks get equipment.
For example, Coun. Kabel noted the town should be certain not to put equipment in a park that’s only a couple of blocks away from another, fully-equipped park.
But Coun. Struchan Gilson said council should approve the report as is, move on with the work, and deal with Pither’s Point Park separately.
“I’m prepared to vote on it tonight,” agreed Coun. Tannis Drysdale, noting that not approving the report could hold up work on the playgrounds.
“Two weeks is a long time when you’re six years old and you haven’t had a park to play in,” she remarked, referring to how long it will be until council’s next meeting.
“Two weeks won’t make much of a difference,” said Mayor Onichuk.
As it stands now, the report from Operations and Facilities manager Doug Brown noted that $75,000 has been earmarked to be spent for equipment and inspection services at three parks—Front Street, Lillie Avenue, and Phair Avenue.
Some $40,000 of this money is from Crime Stoppers, which was raised by the group over the past year, with the remaining $35,000 coming from the town’s capital budget.
According to the current work plan, Front Street will see a new composite play structure, four swings, and two picnic tables while Lillie Avenue will see a play structure, a see-saw, and two picnic tables.
And at Phair Avenue, the new equipment will consist of a play structure, a see-saw, four swings, and two picnic tables.
Coun. Gilson said he felt Fort Frances OPP Cst. Caroline Spencer should be thanked for spearheading the Crime Stoppers fundraising for the park equipment.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft noted he wanted to assure the public that next year the town will concentrate on getting playground equipment for the north end.
“They have not been forgotten and will not be forgotten,” he vowed.
The parks at Phair and Lillie Avenue, Front Street, and Pither’s Point Park had most or all of their equipment removed last summer after an audit done by certified playground inspector Paul LaFreniere determined it did not meet current safety standards.
At that time, Cst. Spencer started a fundraising campaign to get equipment for the Phair Avenue park. However, it was so successful, the money ended up being shared to equip the Lillie Avenue one.