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Open house held to discuss the future of Co-An Park

A group presents their ideas at community centre event.

A large turnout of people attended the McGregor Community Centre last week to give their input on one of the community’s most prominent assets.

An open house was presented for the Co-An Park master plan last Tuesday night where elected officials and members of administration from Amherstburg and Essex were present to hear input and ideas.

The plan would serve the community from anywhere from 20-50 years with the current proposals including two 200-foot baseball diamonds, two 250-foot baseball diamonds, one 300-foot baseball diamond, paved parking lots and walking trails, intermediate and junior sized soccer fields along the Concession 11 side of the park, senior soccer fields, a play area, pickleball/tennis courts, moving the Essex County Steam & Gas Engine Museum’s tractor pull area, new pavilions and shelters.

Heidi Baillargeon - Amherstburg’s director of parks, facilities and recreation – said the plan is based on community feedback with more feedback requested. She said there was already one open house before last Tuesday night and input was gathered from that.

“Since then, there have been a series of meetings with groups like the Co-An Park board, the Essex County Steam and Gas Engine Museum, the public and other user groups,” said Baillargeon.

There have been agreements in place dating as far back as the 1970s, she indicated, and efforts have been made “to bring all parties to the table” to discuss the park’s future going forward.

Upgrades to Co-An Park will be paid for by both Amherstburg and Essex since both jointly fund the park.

“We’re looking at a 50/50 model,” said Baillargeon.

Condition assessments on such amenities as backstops and existing pavilions will be undertaken to see when and if they have to be replaced, with items placed in the capital budgets for both towns for upcoming years. Amherstburg and Essex would both have to approve projects, with one such project being the playground with Baillargeon stating it could be possible in 2025 as both municipalities have set $200,000 aside.

Baillargeon stated she is hearing a lot from user groups, some indicating soccer leagues could be added to the list of things to do at Co-An Park.

The Co-An Park master plan still has to be approved by both councils but Baillargeon believes that could come within the next three to four months.

Jake Morassut, director of community services with the Town of Essex, said he was pleased with how the open house went.

“I am extremely happy with the turnout and how many members of the community are showing excitement for the plan. We did receive a lot of positivity overall, but there were some recommendations provided that we believe would make the plan better,” said Morassut. “This is the purpose of the open house, to get perspectives and have the ability to discuss with the public/user groups, so we are getting exactly what we needed from those that turned out.”

Morassut added: “As we continue to receive feedback, both Amherstburg and Essex administrative teams will evaluate and discuss to ensure we are bringing forward the best plan we can. This is a master plan for the communities, and the team is committed to providing the best vision for the park.”

Gary Struhar, president of the Essex County Steam and Gas Engine Museum, said he was there to observe. He believed he was hearing contradictory information from what he heard the previous week with Amherstburg and Essex officials.

The museum has a lease and Struhar indicated they have a say over what occurs in their section of the park for over ten years.

“It looks pretty,” he said, adding “this is not an overnight deal. They’ve already said so.”

Concerns include parking, particularly for their annual show, and the cost of moving the tractor pull area.

Preserving the old agricultural equipment is important, he added, as it has historical significance. He wants to work with both towns, but there were issues he wanted cleared up.

“It is what it is,” he said of the plan.

Open house held to discuss the future of Co-An Park

By Ron Giofu

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