Groups, individuals offer ideas for future of town’s parks and open spaces

Fort Erie’s plans to provide for the recreational needs of the residents of today and the future is expected to be finalized this summer.

A draft of the parks and open spaces master plan will likely be presented for council and public feedback in late spring, project manager and park planner Elizabeth Latif told councillors at the last council in committee meeting on April 9.

“Moving forward, we’re consolidating all of the information we received through the online survey, open houses and stakeholder meetings and prioritizing the information we have,” she said. “And we’ll be using that to shape the draft official master plan.”

A review of the plan has been in the works for years. The COVID-19 pandemic interrupted the public engagement process. With things back on track, Latif took the opportunity to provide council with a quick update.

Staff reached out to various stakeholders, including sports organizations, business improvement area (BIA) groups and town committees. They also did general public outreach through online surveys and public feedback sessions.

Feedback from the outreach ran the gamut. The town was praised for such things as waterfront access and the Friendship Trail.

However, groups also pointed out several areas they’d like to see improved.

SPORTS ORGANIZATIONS

Latif said the response from sports groups showed that there’s enough capacity for baseball and soccer for now, though more soccer capacity will be needed in the near future.

The town’s baseball facilities were identified as needing some work, with batting cages unusable because they’re not up to code, and the layout of Oakes Park leading to potential dangerous situations.

“A lot of baseballs from the (Niagara District Baseball Association men’s) Cannons diamond fly into some of the smaller diamonds where kids ranging from four to 18 years old play,” said Latif.

General maintenance, including grass cutting and filling of potholes in parking lots, as well as worn benches and issues with washrooms were also identified as common themes from sports groups.

ORGANIZATION GROUPS

Stakeholders such as the District School Board of Niagara and the Beachcombers Senior Citizens Association offered suggestions such as improved seating in both sun and shade at local parks, improved lighting and improved surfaces at the pickleball and tennis courts.

They also pointed out a desire to see the recreation department run summer programs.

This category did give kudos to the town for Crystal Ridge Park, which offers a wide mix of amenities.

TOWN COMMITTEES

The town’s rich history, waterfront access, and Friendship Trail were among the assets the town’s committees identified.

These groups would like to see more historical plaques at town parks, bottle refill stations along the Friendship Trail, a track for walking and running, and shoreline protection efforts using natural solutions.

They also pointed out a desire for an off-leash dog park and improved washroom facilities, including gender neutral washrooms.

GENERAL PUBLIC

The feedback from the town’s open houses and online outreach showed pride in the level of waterfront access, the use of waste receptacles, and the Friendship Trail, among others.

Outdoor fitness equipment and better wayfinding were among the improvements this group identified.

Staff will continue to take all the feedback given to craft a draft plan, which the public and council will have a chance to review. Latif said she hopes to have the finalized version complete in the summer.

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