NOHFC pledges nearly $500,000 for Legion Park upgrade, splash pad

By Ken Kellar
Staff writer

Fort Frances is one step closer to realizing the dream of a summer full of splash, thanks to an announcement from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation (NOHFC).

At an announcement on Tuesday morning members of the public, town administration and council joined to hear Kenora-Rainy River MPP announce funding from the NOHFC to go towards the revitalization of the Legion Park in west Fort Frances, as well as helping to build the proposed spray park / splash pad that will share the park with the existing play structures. Rickford noted the funding is aimed at helping to ensure that families and local youth have a safe and fun place to spend time in the summer.

“Time and time again we’ve demonstrated our serious commitment to Fort Frances and the Rainy River district, and that brings us here today for another exciting announcement,” Rickford said.

“I know in the wake of what Fort Frances is going through, and like so many of our communities, our commitment has to centre around a quality of life for people and families. Yes, there is critical infrastructure… but at the end of the day, it’s about families and it’s about communities. It’s why we invested in the Rec Centre, it’s why we invested along the riverside, it’s to enhance the community, not just as a destination for other people to come and visit but for us, day in and day out, season in and season out, to explore and enjoy the things that we have in our communities.”

Rickford then announced that the Town of Fort Frances had received $499,000 to go towards both the revitalization and upgrade of the Legion Park and the final installation of the proposed splash pad. Rickford noted that in addition to the splash pad, the money would also go towards installing a new playground, improved lighting and installing accessible walkways and washroom facilities to ensure people of all ages and ability would be able to enjoy the park and everything it will have to offer.

“It’s one of the criteria for me approving these projects, that they are accessible and, when and where possible, they have washrooms,” he explained.

“The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund is going to cover 74.9 percent of this project. We understand the duress of some of the community’s resources for things like recreational infrastructure, so 75 percent of the costs made sense for the town to go ahead with this. We’re proud to support recreational infrastructure that makes life fun and exciting for all of our families and our little kids.”

The town’s operations and facilities manager Travis Rob said the goal is to have the splash pad installed and operational by late summer of 2023, though that will rely on the availability of materials and other necessary upgrades that need to be planned and executed at the park.

“We’re going to start working on the other components of this, the park rehabilitation,” Rob explained.

“We’re going to start looking at design work for play structures, the other components of the overall project. We do still have some fundraising we need to do to make up the remaining 25 percent that will fill out the whole project, so we’re still working on that and getting ready for hopefully late March, early April, start to procure materials and goods so we can be ready to start construction once the frost is out of the ground. The hope is we’ll be ready to open late this summer.”

MPP Greg Rickford, far right, made a special stop at Legion Park on Tues- day to announce an injection of nearly $500,000, to overhaul the green space. It will be the home of Fort Frances’ new splash park, along with play- ground, accessible walkways, parking and washroom facilities. The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund grant represents nearly 75 per cent of the total funds needed for the project. – Ken Kellar photo

Rob said other improvements to the park and immediate area include running water and sewer services in to the splash pad and new washrooms, as well as some roadwork to install a new crossing and road reconstruction.

“There’s lots going on in the background to getting ready for construction start,” Rob said.

Members of the splash pad committee were on hand for Rickford’s announcement, and they noted the announcement put them one step closer to realizing their goal, with a goalpost currently set at March 31st to have realized all the necessary funding.

“The Make a Big Splash Committee wants to thank Minister of Indigenous Affairs and Northern Development, the Honorable Greg Rickford for the support shown today to our project,” the committee chair Becky Andrusco said in a release.

“The funding from the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund is a significant and much needed boost in overall fund raising for the splash pad which will be part of the Legion Park Rehabilitation Project.”

For his part, Fort Frances mayor Andrew Hallikas thanked Rickford for his penchant to show up for the town and district when it came to significant funding announcements and representing the region on a provincial level.

“Minister Rickford can always be counted on to visit his constituents on a regular basis, and he always makes himself available for discussion and consultation,” Hallikas said.

“I want to say how fortunate we are to represented in government by such a conscientious minister who always fights for his constituents.”