Town weighing tennis courts in skate park plans

Town council put off approving a site for the proposed skate park here on the grounds at least one tennis court should be left for people to use.
In a report to council at Monday night’s meeting, the Community Services executive committee recommended council give the nod to the proposed site—just east of the Memorial Sports Centre—while also directing administration to investigate building new tennis courts at the St. Francis Sportsfield.
Coun. Rick Wiedenhoeft, who sits on the Community Services executive committee, noted there’s no doubt the tennis courts need to be replaced while the location east of the Memorial Sports Centre is ideal for the proposed skate park.
“Having said that, we have another problem on our hands, and that is there is a group in town that still uses those tennis courts, one of which I’m sometimes a member,” he said.
“We need to relocate these tennis courts to another spot in town. Either that or resurface them,” he remarked.
“If we resurface them, there’s a extensive expense anyway. Why not just locate the skate park there and redo the tennis courts in an area that would benefit both groups?” Coun. Wiedenhoeft added.
While acknowledging it was a “very expensive proposition” to relocate the tennis courts, Coun. Wiedenhoeft said he has spoken with Ian Simpson, assistant superintendent of education for the Rainy River District School Board, on the issue.
He said Simpson showed interest in the school board and town partnering and having the courts built at the St. Francis Sportsfield for both students and the public to use.
Coun. Wiedenhoeft noted tennis is a part of the high school phys. ed. curriculum, and added the site “is a relatively central location, with the extensive number of houses in the west end of town.”
But if the process of getting the tennis courts built in the west end of town takes more than a year, tennis players still need a place to play, he reasoned, so it would be best to leave one or two tennis courts as they are for now and build a skate park over the other ones.
“My concern right off the bat is the sequence of the planning,” said Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig.
“From the tennis players’ perspective, if in fact a skate park was constructed with one court left for the tennis players in contemplation of a new tennis facility being built, is that going to meet the tennis players’ needs?”
“Two would be better,” replied Community Services manager George Bell. “But the tennis players would be very happy to know we’re moving forward to build a new facility for them.
“It’s something they’ve wanted for well over a decade,” he added.
McCaig asked if there was any indication as to how fast the process of getting new tennis courts built in the west end could happen, to which Coun. Wiedenhoeft said “there’s no timeline to give you.”
He also noted Simpson was talking from his own point-of-view and not on behalf of the public school board.
Mayor Dan Onichuk said the issue of the skate park location and the fate of the tennis courts should be discussed at a public meeting, at which time anyone with concerns could voice their opinions.
But no date was set at Monday night’s meeting or since, Clerk Glenn Treftlin confirmed late yesterday afternoon.
Council also referred the matter back to Bell to have the site plans redrawn in order that at least one tennis court remain in addition to a skate park.
These revised plans will come back to the Community Services executive committee for a recommendation, and then to council for final approval at a future meeting.

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