Fort Frances splash pad project gets major funding

The splash pad in Fort Frances is one big step closer to becoming a reality by this summer.

The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation is giving the town nearly $500,000 to upgrade Legion Park and build the splash pad.

Greg Rickford, the Kenora-Rainy River MPP and minister responsible for NOHFC, joined Mayor Andrew Hallikas at a ceremony at the park on Tuesday to announce the funding.

“At the end of the day, it's about families and it's about communities,” Rickford said. “For us day in and day out, season in, season out to explore, and enjoy the things that we have in our communities. And that's exactly what this is about here.”

The project includes building a splash pad, installing a new playground, some improved park lighting and providing accessible washrooms, he said.

“The criteria for me approving these projects is that they're accessible and when and where possible, they have washrooms,” he said.

Hallikas said the funding will greatly assist in the completion of this much needed and important community project.

The funding will cover just under 75 per cent of the project cost, according to Rickford, with the town needing to raise the rest of the amount.

Travis Rob, the operations and facilities manager for Fort Frances and member of the Make a Big Splash Spray Park committee, said the funding is a big help and a big step forward for the project.

“The funding is really going to give us the opportunity to take this from simply a splash pad construction to a full-on park rehabilitation also including additional park enhancements, new play equipment, and other sort of features,” he said.

“We're going be able to deliver not only a splash pad but an overall great park enhancement for one of the biggest parks in the town of Fort Frances,” Rob said they aren’t out of the woods yet, still needing to raise 25 per cent.

“We do still have a ways to go in terms of fundraising,” he said. “But things are starting to trickle in and there is a lot of momentum in the community out there.”

The Make a Big Splash Spray Park committee topped the Tbaytel for Good vote and was awarded $10,000 in October.

He said the committee also put in a request during budget deliberations for $75,000 from the Municipal Accommodation Tax reserve fund which council approved.

“We're very optimistic that we should have everything in place,” he said. “Our goal is to have all the funding in place by the middle of March, such that we would be able to start procuring materials so that we will have everything on site and ready to start construction as soon as we can in the spring.”

The NOHFC also announced on Tuesday $116,250 in funding for the Rainy River Future Development Corporation to purchase a new canopy for its events tent.

Eric Shih, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Thunder Bay Source