Town council gives nod to revised skate park plans

Skateboarders in Fort Frances may yet see their dreams come true as the push to finally get a skate park built here took a step forward at Monday night’s council meeting.
After hearing a presentation from skate park committee chair Rob Tovey, town council applauded the proposed project—and now will be looking at which site would be most appropriate for such a facility.
“I’d like to say to you guys that I’m glad that when this big concrete bowl disappeared from possibility, that you guys didn’t fold up your tent and pack up the whole program and leave,” said Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft.
“I’m happy to see that it is coming forward in this format. Congratulations and thank you to your committee,” he added.
Citing a case in Winnipeg where a 15-year-old boy was killed several years ago skateboarding in an “high-risk” location, Coun. Wiedenhoeft stressed it is crucial that skateboarders have a safe place for their recreation.
“I think this is good for the Town of Fort Frances. I think it’s good for the kids in the Town of Fort Frances,” he remarked. “And ultimately, what’s good for the kids in Fort Frances is good for the rest of us.”
“This is the first time I’ve read something that seemed to be professionally done,” Coun. Struchan Gilson said of the report.
“I’m in favour of what I see here. It makes a lot of sense to me,” he added.
Coun. Roy Avis asked if the skate park committee would be asking for any bridge financing to get the park built.
“None whatsoever,” said Tovey, adding the skate park committee plans to continue to raise funds until May, then whatever money it has at that time will be used to start building a park this summer.
“If we have all the money, if the town and the kids are behind it, if they put the effort forward and we have all the money this year, we’ll have the park pretty much the way you see it,” he remarked.
“If not, it will be in two stages—it’ll be one stage this year with the money we have. Then we’ll continue the fundraising and add to it the following year,” Tovey added.
Mayor Dan Onichuk said council would “have to look at the possibilities,” but was optimistic about the project.
“It seems like it’s all together. It’s just a matter of picking the right spot,” he noted.
“This is pretty well done,” Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig said of the report. “It gives us a better sense of where this is going.
“From my perspective, I see council’s decision in regards to the park being ‘OK, where’s it going to be?’ I’m pretty happy with this,” he added.
Council approved Tovey’s proposal, then forwarded it to the Community Services executive committee, with input from other committees, with the intention to determine the best site.
Tovey noted at Monday’s meeting that, in his mind, there are three possible sites for the skate park: behind the Memorial Sports Centre, to the east of the sports centre where the tennis courts currently sit, and a lot on the corner of Nelson Street and Butler Avenue.
Tovey said he felt the site of the tennis courts probably was the best bet since it is a central location which ties into the sports centre.
As well, he noted the tennis courts currently are in “rough shape” and if they had to be rebuilt, they could be done so elsewhere (perhaps in the west end of town near the high school).
He also said there would be no parking issues there, and it wouldn’t be too close to residential properties.
Tovey added he understood the site behind the arena possibly was being eyed for a new library and thus maybe out of the picture.
Coun. Gilson noted he spoke with the library board, who said they were willing to work with the skate park committee if there was any conflicting plans for project sites.
As for the lot on the corner of Nelson Street and Butler Avenue, Tovey said it was a recent idea and admitted there could be issues with it being a residential area.
“The kids, I don’t think they care where they skateboard. But it may matter to the council—the Town of Fort Frances owns this park,” he remarked.
“Whichever location you choose, we’re going to be happy with.”
Tovey even noted that due to the modular nature of the proposed park, aspects of the plans could be altered (made wider, longer, shorter, or narrower) to accommodate any site chosen by the town.
The executive committees’ findings will come back before council at future meeting.
While a proposal for a skate park has come before council before, Tovey noted this is not the concrete bowl design it had previously seen, which most recent estimates place at costing up to $500,000.
“We’ve modified the original plan, primarily to reduce the cost and have them more in line what we really want to spend on a park,” said Tovey. “A modular park gives us control over what we spend.
“Now, we only have to spend what we have.”
First outlined in last week’s Times, new design for the skate park—a permanent modular park which would feature a variety of ramps, stairs, rails, half-pipes, and above-ground concrete bowls—would cost about $295,000.
This includes site preparation and flatwork ($75,000), equipment ($175,000), site work and landscaping ($15,000), taxes, fees, and other charges ($20,000), and a contingency fund ($10,000).
Tovey noted the committee has raised about $120,000 so far for the project—and hopes to resume fundraising as soon as possible.
He also said if any funds were raised above and beyond the $295,000 price tag, the surplus would be paid to the town to cover maintenance or other costs stemming from the skate park.
The park could be built in about eight-nine weeks. After being ordered from Barkman Concrete, the modular components take about six weeks to make and then be shipped here for installation.
In the meantime, a local contractor would be hired to lay down a concrete base at the site. This could take between four and five weeks, said Tovey.
Once the modular components arrive here, they can be installed in about two weeks.
If the components are ordered by the start of May, the park potentially could be completed by the end of June or beginning of July.