No shortage of strategic plan input

Duane Hicks

An assisted living facility, tourist attractions, and active transportation are among the requests for council to consider during its strategic planning session tomorrow at Sunny Cove.
During a public meeting Monday evening, Diane Maxey of the Assisted Living Action Group (A.L.A.G.) asked that the town recognize and designate an assisted living facility as one of its major priorities for the next four years.
“Our aging population is fast-approaching a critical level that demands action as soon as possible,” Maxey warned.
“At this point in time, we have statistical data indicating an immediate need for approximately 100 units.
“We are not looking for a handout,” she stressed. “We fully expect to contribute the financial means to ensure success, just as it has been and is done in most communities across Canada.”
Maxey said A.L.A.G. understands the town has limited financial resources but it creatively can assist via in-kind services, such as advice, assistance, property donation, and hard and soft services.
“To not pursue this issue would be an abdication of our responsibilities to our citizens,” she remarked.
“In the absence of an assisted living facility, our aging population will continue to migrate to other progressive communities who have recognized and embraced these circumstances, and this would be a tragic loss for everyone,” added Maxey.
Council also received quite a few written statements from local residents.
Eric and Caren Fagerdahl asked council redefine and redevelop Fort Frances into the premier tourist destination it once was.
“Reconstructing a fort in Fort Frances would make us a tourist destination,” they wrote.
“This was the historic meeting place for the trade routes between the east and west,” they noted. “It was where the Europeans, Métis, and First Nations came together in friendship and co-operation.
“It could once again be a place that fosters people coming together.
“In recent history, Pither’s Point has become a bone of contention between the First Nations people and the town,” the Fagerdahls added.
“We could turn that around by working to develop co-operation between First Nations, Métis, and town’s people to provide a new meeting place.”
Funding for this could come from three levels of government.
An interpretative centre would provide a place to teach about our rich and varied history from the ancient First Nations, the fur trade, pulp and paper industry, farming, tourism, and burling (log rolling).
“We have so much to be proud of and to share,” the Fagerdahls stressed.
Other ideas they suggested included:
•a water park at the Point or Shevlin wood yard;
•retrofitting the mill for the production of other products;
•better signage to direct tourists to the tourist information centre and opening up the old mill parking lot north of the centre for tourist parking;
•erecting signage on the highways from the east and to west, informing travellers about the historic waterways and other sites;
•making health care a focus to interest newcomers and keep seniors here, including a graduated housing development (“baby-boomers” quickly are moving into retirement and soon will be the largest demographic in society); and
•making hospitality a focus of all citizens (all people of the district must be welcome).
Local resident Charleen Mallory also urged council to recognize opportunities to foster tourism here given Fort Frances no longer is a mill town.
“I feel that in order to create community, our town needs to create an atmosphere where local people are proud of our town and want to ‘staycation,’ and invite others to share what we have,” she wrote.
“To accomplish this, we must entice and welcome the people of the district to make Fort Frances their ‘go to’ place for arts, entertainment and shopping,” Mallory argued.
“By encouraging district people to view Fort Frances as a welcoming community, we will also be offering the tourists who travel through our town reasons to stop, look, and stay.
“I would like to see Fort Frances redefined and redeveloped into the premier tourist destination it was when I was young,” she noted.
“We are located at the heart of the continent, on the dividing line between the Canadian Shield and the Prairies, on the international border, and we need to use this to our best advantage,” Mallory stressed.
“Rainy Lake has long been the playground of Minneapolis/St. Paul, Milwaukee, and Chicago, as well as other cities in the upper [U.S.] Midwest,” she noted.
Mallory said as a community, “we need to remember that what we do in Fort Frances extends past the boundaries of our town.”
“Our economic situation, good or bad, is felt through not only our town but also the Rainy River District, as well as all of Northwestern Ontario and northern Minnesota,” she wrote.
Mallory also said council must foster the historic co-operation between the diverse people in the region, and would like to see parties work together to build a fort and interpretive centre at the Point, among other ventures.
Other ideas include developing property on Mowat Avenue east of Canada Customs, signage along the highway to promote travellers about the historic waterways, meeting the needs of retiring “baby-boomers” so they stay here, and making hospitality a focus for all citizens.
Elaine Fischer of the Northwestern Health Unit, meanwhile, asked council to integrate active transportation into the town’s budget and make Fort Frances more user-friendly for those walking, jogging, running, cycling, and using other forms of non-motorized transportation.
“It is essential that the town commit funding and support toward implementation of designated safe and active routes outlined in the Active Transportation Plan,” she wrote.
“Local stakeholders would be active partners in seeking out alternate sources of funding to support the municipal budget,” Fischer added.
She noted there are strong policies in the town’s official plan to support active transportation, and urged council to consider multi-modal transportation with all infrastructure and construction projects (i.e., road construction, re-surfacing, re-designing, zoning, and site development).
She also urged the provision of road designs for pedestrians (e.g., sidewalks), along with bicycles and other non-motorized vehicle traffic (e.g., bike lanes and pre-paved boulevards).
Fischer said council should consider the implementation of a “1-Path Project” on which to focus.
Council also received a written submission from local business owner Guy Donaldson, who suggested the town look at the feasibility of relocating the CN tracks to another area west, north, or east to create a better traffic flow in town and make the community safer.
He added other jurisdictions across Canada are looking in this same issue.
Fort Frances Museum curator Sherry George submitted a letter, on behalf of the museum advisory committee, asking the town to apply to the federal “Canada 150” fund to reconstruct a fort here.
And Allan T. Bedard recommended changes to the governance of the Sister Kennedy Centre here.
Council will consider all of the input received during its day-long strategic planning session slated tomorrow at Sunny Cove.
In past years, council and administration brainstormed to come up with items for the strategic plan, Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig noted Monday night.
This year, however, he said there are about 50 recommendations on the table.
“We are going to be looking at the ones that people put forward, and we’re going to be evaluating them, our ability to undertake them, if they’re in our jurisdiction in terms of the municipality, and our ability to complete them within the next four years,” McCaig said.
“We’re very happy with the level of input we got,” he added.
“I think we’ve had more of a broad-based consultation than we have in years past.”