Re-Inventing Fort Frances

As the “Re-Inventing Fort Frances” committee continues to work at landing financial support for a $150,000 feasibility study, NDP leader and local MPP Howard Hampton said he sees a future in its plans.
“I’d like to see provincial dollars go into it,” he noted last Thursday. “The concept is an excellent one, and there’s several reasons why.
“Since Sept. 11, Americans aren’t so interested in travelling far by plane, or even leaving their own country,” Hampton said. “Americans are worried about their security.
“One of the best things we can do for our American neighbours is offer them a safe, serene, and tranquil place to go. It’s an opportunity for us to restate what we can offer as a tourist destination,” he stressed.
Hampton said the influx of U.S. dollars then should spark retail and other commercial opportunities “we haven’t even thought of before.”
“And because Fort Frances is a port of entry, with its own Customs facility, I think there’s potential in the Fort Frances Airport,” he added.
And making such changes is crucial for the community’s future, he stressed.
“Fort Frances has been blessed with a pulp and paper mill that has been running 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year for year after year,” Hampton said.
“The downside is we have become complacent with it.
“One person who visited Fort Frances said to me, ‘It’s a nice town, but it’s so complacent.’ It’s true,” added Hampton. “With this, people are actually thinking outside the box.
“I’m glad a group came together to work on this.”
“Re-Inventing” chair Janis Lesko said she was “elated” to hear about Hampton’s support.
“What we’re looking for is community support,” she remarked. “As we get more people on board, such as Mr. Hampton, the magnitude and profile of the project will grow.
“We’re excited about anyone coming aboard.”
Lesko noted Hampton’s support complements that previously shown by federal Indian Affairs minister and local MP Robert Nault.
“We’ve met with him twice and he is in full support. Now, we’ve got someone on both the federal and provincial levels,” she said.
The “Re-Inventing Fort Frances” project is a multi-faceted initiative to foster tourism and economic growth in town.
Aspects of the plan include altering traffic flow to promote local businesses, turning the old Fort Frances High School into a market area with a park and amphitheatre, erecting a large Mountie statue, creating a “fort-like” gateway at the border, and much more.
Last week, the Town of Fort Frances pledged up to $25,000 towards a feasibility study, which is a necessary step to land provincial and federal funding for any of the projects the plan entails.
The town also will be directly involved with the project as a sponsor of the feasibility grant application, with Mayor Glenn Witherspoon and CAO Bill Naturkach to sit on the committee.
At its most recent meeting, the “Re-Inventing” group discussed setting up additional suggestion boxes at different locations in the new year to allow easier access for those who want to have their ideas considered.
The only current suggestion box is located at the Rainy Lake Hotel.