The City of Kenora has added a new playground area to their plans for Central Park.

During Kenora’s May 10 Committee of the Whole meeting, councillors moved to accept a $452,000 contract for the installation of new playgrounds at Norman Park and Central Park. The Norman Park project was announced in February, but playground equipment coming to Central is new information.

“There was so many funding announcements through the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation, this one here kind of got lost in the shuffle,” explains Kenora Mayor Dan Reynard, in an interview with Q104 and KenoraOnline.

“The one that was always in the plan was for the Norman Beach area. The second was for brand-new playground equipment as part of our Central Park rehabilitation project.”

The city’s report explains that after the city received funding through the Ontario Trillium Foundation for Norman Park, staff submitted an additional application for $260,000 for Central Park, which was successful. Council later accepted the contract during their May 17 Council meeting.

“It will be in the east-north corner, about in the in-field of the [current] small baseball diamond,” adds Reynard. “It fills in a spot that was within the park. Rather than green grass, we’ll have brand new playground equipment for children and families.”

Central 1A rendering of the playground equipment courtesy of the City of Kenora.

Kenora will be redeveloping the eastern half of the current Central Park area into a new recreational area, with the western half of the property being developed into multi-residential housing units. Construction on the eastern half began last year, and a developer still has to be found for the housing aspect of the project.

Recreational upgrades to Central Park are set to include a new outdoor rink, a new open rink area, replacement of the boards surrounding the hockey rink, paving and lining the ice surface, construction of a player bench area, the new Central Community Club and the newly-announced playground equipment.

When the final development’s complete, the city says residents will also be able to enjoy the new rink surface’s concrete base to allow hockey and basketball over the summer, beach volleyball areas, a second ice surface and a bocce ball area.

“When the project is complete next year, we will have a brand new facility that works for children, families and visitors alike. It will be a four-season opportunity. It’s a great addition to the community,” Reynard adds.

Central 2Photo courtesy of the City of Kenora.

Construction on the Central Community Club area officially kicked off in April. Crews are continuing their underground work, which will be followed by the installation of the new clubhouse and rinks, before the final landscaping phase of the project.

The redevelopment of the Central Community Club was originally supposed to be completed by the 2021-2022 winter season, but due to unexpected delays, the project is now expected to be completed in the winter of 2022-2023. Reynard notes that’s still the target for the city.

Central 3Photo courtesy of the City of Kenora. 

The original Central Community Club was closed and torn down in 2018 as it was beyond repair. Councillors unanimously voted in favour of rezoning Central Park in February of 2021, with funding from the provincial and federal governments coming in the following month.

Other funding has included over $100,000 raised by the Central Community Board, $370,000 from the city, a $70,000 donation from Solid Construction and a commitment from the Central Community Board to raise an additional $153,590.

A bit of misinformation continues to circulate around the project as well. Residents have claimed that Central Park was gifted to the city over 100 years ago, which specified that it had to remain a public space throughout its lifetime.

The City of Kenora, Lake of the Woods Museum and Heritage Kenora dispute the claim that the Hudson’s Bay Company specified the property must be used as a park, noting the company’s plans from the 1880s showed Central Park was to be used as a residential area, before it was later turned into a park in the 1890s.

This story was originally published on Friday, May 27, 2022 by Ryan Forbes.