Provincial funding allows full revamp of Legion Park

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

The Fort Frances Spray Park has expanded to a full scale revamp of Legion Park, thanks to last week’s $499,000 Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation announcement.

Conditions on the grant dictate that the funding make up no more than 75 per cent of the overall project budget. Because the initial budget was well under that threshold, the scope of the project needs to grow.

“Initially, even before this was a Town of Fort Frances Committee, it was just a group of like-minded people that got together to focus on the splash park,” said committee member Christine Hampton. “It was May 2022 when it became a Town of Fort Frances committee and (Manager of Operations and Facilities) Travis Rob joined us. Then we started looking at this as an overall project once we decided on the location of the Legion Park. The funding announcement is really an opportunity for us to expand the whole rehab project, ensure the splash park is in place, some additional amenities, and add some extras that we think the community is really interested in.”

The committee itself is expanding along with the scope of the project; two members from the local Royal Canadian Legion Branch have been added.

“As we started to focus on the overall larger project, the park rehab, of which the splash park is one element, we have two members from the legion who are going to be joining the committee,” Hampton said. “They’ve been supportive from the beginning when we reached out to them to find out how they felt potentially about the rehab of the park.”

Other planned improvements include the replacement of playground equipment, improved accessibility, a paved parking lot as well as fencing to separate the park from the road to keep children safe as well as keep it separate from the adjacent cemetery.

“I don’t necessarily want to do a big tall chain link fence. We are looking at doing some fencing, at the very least, across the highway portion and down the side by the cemetery just to provide some kind of privacy to separate the two spaces between the park and the cemetery area,” Rob said. “Whatever we do there, we’re trying to make sure it’s tasteful.”

Rob says a request for proposals for new playground design and equipment will be going out soon as well.

“We’ve engaged some playground designers and started talking to them about what we have in mind for a budget for playground equipment, what sort of things we can get,” Rob said. “So the committee has kind of an idea of where we can go with the money that we have allocated towards the playground. So now that we’ve secured the Heritage Fund money I’ll be putting out a request for proposals for a design firm, because there’s a ton of different designers and suppliers of playground equipment. So we want to try and maximize the best return on investment for redoing the playground infrastructure with that portion of the budget.”

There have been some consultations made about what needs to be done to revamp the park in addition to the spray park and the committee is open to feedback.

New washroom facilities will be added in addition to the pump house required to run the spray park. Hampton says the new washroom will be closer to the spray park and the road rather than further back in the park where the washrooms are now.

Committee Chair Becky Andrusco says they want to make it as family-friendly as possible but not only cater to families with young children.

“Travis went to Mr. Hill’s Business class (at Fort Frances High School) and they asked the students what other types of amenities they would be interested in in the park. Because our objective is to ensure that this is a place for families and community,” Andrusco said. “We don’t just want to target younger kids but we’re looking at amenities that will bring older kids and families to the park as well. Some of their ideas included walking paths, a dog park, basketball nets. They also talked about a paved surface for roller blades.”

On the Make a Big Splash FF Facebook page it was recently announced that donations have surpassed $100,000 and as of Thursday Feb. 16 with the new total goal at $281,500. There have also been some commitments of in-kind donations of materials but those amounts won’t be included in the total until the donations have been given. The committee is still soliciting donations to the project from local residents and businesses and are also interested in donations of materials and or supplies that might be used in the project.