The Town Park Recreation Centre will be expanding – and as a result, Port Hope seniors’ longtime ask for a new “multi-purpose rec centre” will come to life.
After years in the works, more than $3 million in funding for the expansion was confirmed during a recent virtual announcement.
“The politicians promised it and they’ve delivered – I think that’s pretty awesome,” said 79-year-old Peter Huffman, who’s also the over 90s co-ordinator with the Ruth Clarke Advisory Board and a longtime advocate for a new seniors centre space.
“It’s been a long time coming, and we need it badly. Everything we’re going to get is going to be new and improved and that way we can bring in more members and be able to accommodate them.”
The expansion will create 6,225 square feet for additional program space – and will especially benefit seniors who’ve long advocated for a new space due to concerns with their current hub, the Ruth Clarke Activity Centre for Seniors. It was built in 1979.
From program capacity, to accessibility concerns and other issues, in recent years the need for a new, safer, larger and more accessible space to accommodate the growth of a rapidly aging population has been well documented through various municipal studies and by seniors.
“Now that the funding is in place, there’s a lot of work to do leading up to shovels in the ground,” explained Jim McCormack, Port Hope’s director of parks, recreation and culture, who alongside his team has been pushing this project forward.
Next steps include retaining an architectural engineering firm to prepare detailed design drawings. After, a general contractor will be hired. Shovels should be in the ground around December-January, with construction taking about 10-11 months, McCormack said.
The expansion/rehabilitation project will also include the addition of three multi-purpose rooms, a large gathering area, storage space, an improved kitchen area, increased room sizes and a new parking lot. It will mean “a variety of multi-generational programs” can be offered.
The actual addition will be located on the west side (where the main entrance is.)
After hearing for several years about how much seniors and residents need these upgrades, and to have this coming to fruition now, last week’s announcement made for an emotional moment, said McCormack, while thanking his team and all partners.
Other virtual announcement attendees included Catherine McKenna, federal minister of infrastructure and communities, David Piccini, Northumberland-Peterborough South MPP, also on behalf of Laurie Scott, Ontario’s minister of infrastructure, and Port Hope Mayor Bob Sanderson.
During the announcement, McKenna confirmed a federal investment of more than $1.2 million for the project through the Community, Culture and Recreation Infrastructure Stream of the Investing in Canada plan. Piccini confirmed a provincial investment of more than $1 million.
When thinking about building back better after COVID-19, it’s important to think big, and about how communities’ matter – and these types of recreation centres are at the heart of inclusive, sustainable and welcoming communities, said McKenna, while confirming funding.
Port Hope is contributing more than $823,000. The municipal portion is being funded through development charges, the levy and reserves; monies were allocated in previous capital budgets.
When life gets back to normal after COVID-19, this expansion will mean more services for residents, as well as improved access to community and recreational activities, particularly for seniors who deserve a more modern space, said Piccini, while also noting the significance of these programs and the connections made through such activities support residents’ overall wellbeing.
Membership at the Ruth Clark centre has been growing since at least 2011, with increases expected to continue as the senior population grows.
“It is our goal to enhance the quality of life for our residents and accommodate demographic changes, (and) this project allows us to integrate our seniors program space within a multi-use facility, making it a true community centre,” said Sanderson, while offering thanks to all project partners.
For Huffman, he said he can’t wait for shovels to be in the ground, and for more seniors to benefit through more choices, programs and accessibility improvements.
“I’m an amputee and stairs and that… (are) a problem for me and that won’t happen again.”
He’s also looking forward to just being with people again and simply enjoying the new space.
STORY BEHIND THE STORY: After $3-plus-million in funding was announced for the revamp of the rec centre and a new seniors’ space, we delved into project details and benefits for residents.