‘Let’s do it right’: New hoops court kicks off Taylor Park revitalization

Lets do it right New hoops court kicks off Taylor

An old, cracked asphalt basketball court is a distant memory now that a massive concrete pad with brand new nets dominates Taylor Park in Chatham’s east end.

An old, cracked asphalt basketball court is a distant memory now that a massive concrete pad with brand new nets dominates Taylor Park in Chatham’s east end.

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Frank Parker, who grew up playing on the court, decided to get the ball rolling on improvements after hosting a tournament a few years ago.

This led to the creation of Taylor Park Revitalization Project.

“In my opinion, this area has been overlooked for a long time,” Parker said. “So, it was, if we’re going to do it, let’s do it right.”

A 27 by 15-meter concrete basketball court has been installed, with court lines, some benches and other finishing touches coming soon.

A combination of local businesses, community partners, Chatham-Kent parks and recreation staff and municipal councilors have made it happen.

One of the first calls Parker made was to Spencer Clarke, electrical and telecommunications project manager with the Clarke Group.

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“Frank called me and said this basketball court meant a lot to him, personally, and the community at large,” Clarke said.

So the company teamed up with Chatham-Kent Ready-Mix and Harris Construction, “worked together and made this happen.”

Clarke said it didn’t dawn on him how important this project was until construction began and several area residents came out to watch.

“A lot of youth came up to us. . . said, ‘Hey, this means a lot to us.’ That’s when really understood just how much we were doing here,” Clarke said.

In addition to the local businesses, the planned four-phase project is a community effort involving East Side Pride, the Woodstock Industrial Institute – from which the municipality leases the parkland – St. John Masonic Lodge and the Chatham-Kent Police Association and police board .

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A new basketball court at Taylor Park is part of a revitalization project for the Chatham facility. Chatham Coun. Marjorie Crew, left, Frank Parker, middle, and Spencer Clarke, of The Clarke Group, were involved in the basketball court project. (Ellwood Shreve/Chatham Daily News) jpg, CD, apsmc

“We wanted to be a community project,” said Parker.

Several young people have been invited to Taylor Park Revitalization committee meetings because “we wanted them to take ownership of it, we wanted to make it feel like it is theirs,” he said.

The project vision has grown thanks to the involvement of Deb Veccia, Chatham parks and horticulture supervisor, and Chatham Coun. Majorie Crew, a founder of East Side Pride, Parker said.

When he called Veccia more than a year ago about replacing the basketball court, Parker said she suggested bringing community groups and others together for the project.

“I think her vision was even a little bit bigger than mine,” he said. “She was looking at the whole park and I was just looking at the court.”

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He then called on Crew, crediting his experience with helping move the park upgrade forward.

Crew said her first move was to call the other five Chatham-Kent councilors – Michael Bondy, Amy Finn, Brock McGregor, Connor Allin and Alysson Storey – about each committing the first year of $25,000 in annual Hydro One funding they receive for community projects.

The Hydro One funds come from a community host agreement to have new transmission lines come through Chatham-Kent.

Every councilor agreed to provide the full funding to the project, with Storey committing $20,000 after having allocated $5,000 for a tree project at the nearby BME Park, Crew said. Mayor Darrin Canniff also allocated some Hydro One funds, she added.

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Once the basketball court is completed, planning will begin on the other three phases, which includes new playground equipment, Crew said.

The park will be connected with pathways around the pool to an area featuring a concrete chess game and concrete Ping-Pong table.

“All of it is going to be accessible,” Crew said. “We want anyone of any ability to be able to get to the basketball court to play basketball, to get to anywhere in here, get around the pool.”

Once all the groups came together, the attitude was “let’s reach for the stars and make it the nicest thing in Southwestern Ontario,” Park said.

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