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Bass derby pleads to alter waterfront plan

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Thanks to a last-minute plea from the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship committee, the town may alter Phase II of the La Verendrye Parkway waterfront development project to be more accommodating to the annual derby.

The contentious aspect of the renovation plans is a horseshoe-shaped “green space”—an island consisting of grass and trees—meant to separate the current Sorting Gap Marina parking lot from the new expanded parking area going in there, said Doug Cain of the FFCBC’s board of directors, who spoke to the committee of the whole Tuesday night.

“This green space prevents any further expansion of the Rainy River Future Development Corp.’s tent, and restricts where the tent may be place in the parking lot,” he remarked.

“I want council to take the long-term view here,” Cain added. “The bass tournament isn’t going away. And even more events may be held on Front Street in the future.

“It’s a perfect spot.”

Cain previously proposed in a letter to council that it consider substituting the green space with removable planters.

But Operations and Facilities manager Pat Hickerson recommended council deny this proposal at this point in time since work already has gone too far to turn back from the project plans.

Hickerson noted the green space had to remain because it was designed by a landscape architect for aesthetic value to mark the break between Phase I and Phase II of the project, and helps with the transition between areas as there are minor differences in elevation, for example, between them.

“What we didn’t want is a sterile design. The waterfront is all about aesthetics,” Hickerson added. “Even if this had been brought up at an earlier stage, we probably wouldn’t change it.”

He said any change now also would mean taking out curbing, removing asphalt, and changing the grade.

“I could be open to compromise,” said Coun. Dave Bourgeault, who was chairing yesterday’s committee of the whole meeting. “But it’s all about aesthetics.

“You’re there, what, one, two weeks a year. But the rest of the public want to use it the other 51 weeks.”

Cain noted a compromise could be made, and suggested the town keep the idea of a “horseshoe island” but instead of planting grass and trees there, cover it in unistone and simply use concrete planters, like the ones the Fort Frances Chamber of Commerce has used on the traffic islands at Central Avenue.

“If we can come up with a compromise, would the bass tournament pick up the tab for a change order?” asked Coun. Roy Avis.

“We’d certainly entertain a proposal. We can do the planters and whatever you want into them,” said Cain.

“A change order can be expensive. Can we wait until spring and just do it ourselves?” wondered Coun. Deane Cunningham.

“If we are going to do it, we have to do it now,” replied Hickerson. “With the way the weather has turned, we probably only have three or four days to decide.”

The committee of the whole agreed to have Hickerson “investigate a possible change order” and bring it back to the FFCBC.

If the board agrees the cost is acceptable, a special meeting will be called at which time the town will decide whether or not it wants proceed with the proposed compromise.

In related news, Hickerson noted work is ”moving along well” at the parkway site.

“With any project, the preparatory work takes the longest, and it doesn’t look like you’ve got anything done,” he noted. “But things should move along quickly now.”

George Armstrong Company Ltd. crews recently have started curbing, and are prepping to lay unistone for the sidewalks. The in-water work along the shoreline has been completed, but workers still have to drive piles for the additional docks.

Most of the work should be done by the end of the year, with a few details to finish in the spring. The waterfront will be showcased with a grand opening as part the town’s centennial celebration in 2003.

The finished parkway will include extended walking and biking paths, lighting, seating areas, and trees, among other features, from the Sorting Gap Marina to La Verendrye hospital.

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