With construction slated to start as soon as the weather permits, and a completion date set for Aug. 1, no doubt town residents are getting anxious to see the vacant lot where the old Rainy Lake Hotel once sat blossom into the new Rainy Lake Square.
Although the word “market” has been dropped from the name, the primary purpose of the new square is to provide space for vendors to sell their wares—which should help draw pedestrian traffic to the downtown core, especially given the Clover Valley Farmers' Market no longer is in existence here.
But the square aims to be the site for a wide variety of activities—from an entertainment series over the summer months to movie nights during the so-called “shoulder seasons” shown on a gigantic inflatable screen the Rainy River Future Development Corp. recently ordered.
It's equally clear the square holds much potential, as seen by the ideas a group of Fort High students in the Specialist High Skills Major (SHSM) program came up with during a brainstorming session Friday afternoon at the Fort Frances Public Library.
Among the ideas pitched to Operations and Facilities manager Travis Rob and local economic development consultant Tannis Drysdale included an outdoor rink area for ice skating in the winter and roller skating during the summer, or perhaps even used as a dance floor.
The most intriguing idea, though, was to use the site for a Times Square-like “ball drop,” where people can gather together to ring in the New Year each Dec. 31.
It's great to see young people getting involved to offer their suggestions for the Rainy Lake Square and kudos to teacher Shannon Westover for initiating the session. The bottom line, after all, is to make sure the space is used to attract all ages and interests.
It's important to remember, too, that the square's success ultimately hinges on all of us taking ownership and pride in it.