Over 200 volunteers turn out to help complete beach playground

Tom Sasvari

The Recorder

PROVIDENCE BAY—It would be hard to determine who had the broadest smile on their face: the children who will wholeheartedly enjoy the new playground at the Providence Bay beach, or the 200 volunteers who helped with the construction of the new playground last Saturday.

Island youth Hayden Young seemed to sum it up best when he stated, “this is really cool. I never realized everything would be so good and there would be this much playground equipment here.”

“We have over 200 volunteers on hand today and they are still coming in,” stated Providence Bay/Spring Bay Lions club president Brian Mitchell a little after the noon hour last Saturday. “It’s just amazing.”

The project’s fundraising campaign was aided by support provided to the Lions Club, which raised over $113,000, by the municipality, groups and organizations, companies and individual support and donations across the island. Additional financial support was also given by the Let Them Be Kids organization which selected the Providence Bay beach playground as one of 30 projects in Canada for a Helping Hands Award (providing over 50 percent of the funding for the project).

The playground renewal project included the creation of a brand new playground, including the construction of age appropriate play structures, the installation of volleyball net posts and will see improvements to other areas of the beach such as the installation of benches, picnic tables and bike racks.

“I’m glad I came over today to take part and I’m proud to be a member of the Lions Club,” stated Kevin Mitchell, a Sudbury resident who has also been a member of the Lions Club for two years. “The community support is amazing and I’ve certainly had fun helping out.”

“The most fun for me is having helped organize the dotmocracy with students at CMPS (Central Manitoulin Public School), where they got to chose the type of playground equipment they wanted for the playground,” said Lions’ member Anna Orford. “Coming down here today and see it all come together has been amazing. The little kids eyes are so wide and their smiling faces beaming.”

Mr. Mitchell pointed out the work had actually started on the beach earlier in the week. “Everything began early Wednesday morning with unloading and putting up of the equipment and on Thursday the welding was done and the cement was poured,”

“We have had three heroes on the project this week. Leo Jette, who did all the welding, Rob Cranston, who has been here for a week hauling sand and completing other work and Murray Dawson, who did the survey work.” Mr. Mitchell added that Paris Equipment Manufacturing Ltd. supplied the playground equipment.

“I never knew the project would be like this,” Lyle Dewar, one of the volunteers, told the Recorder. “This is much bigger than I figured it would be in terms of the preparation before today and getting ready for the cement to be brought in. The way the whole community has come together to help is just amazing.”

On Saturday, the day-long build included the erection of main structures and minor structural work, the movement of sand by heavy equipment and volunteers shoveling and raking sand around the structures (as the cement footings needed a foot of sand between them and the surface).

The event could be viewed online by people on and off the Island thanks to a live streaming Internet feed being run by Patrick Kiley, who set up equipment to broadcast the day.

Michael Mantha, MPP for Algoma-Manitoulin was present for the build. “It is amazing how projects like this bring the community together, with over 200 volunteers here today,” Mr. Mantha said. “There are even people from Elliot Lake and across the North Shore here to assist. It’s projects like this that identify us as Northerners.”

After a hearty lunch of sausages, hot dogs, salads, desserts and refreshments, provided by volunteers, the work continued until mid-afternoon.

Amanda Gunner, economic development officer of Central Manitoulin, was the master of ceremonies for the official opening held at the end of the day and welcomed everyone on hand.

“I would like to thank everyone for coming out here today,” announced Gerry Strong, reeve of Central Manitoulin. “You are amazing. I am so proud of how the community came together in carrying out this project.”

Michael Erskine, representing the Ontario Trillium Foundation board, which provided a portion of the funds for the project, was on-hand to help with the build and say a few words during the opening ceremonies.

“I am absolutely amazed with the turnout of people here today,” stated Mr. Erskine. “Looking at the project on paper you don’t have a real sense of what it will be. This doesn’t even touch it. It’s amazing and what an amazing community Providence Bay, Spring Bay, and the Island is in coming together like this to lend a hand.”

“On behalf of the board I would like to congratulate the community of Providence Bay/Spring Bay and the Lions Club for undertaking and completing such an ambitious project,” added Sharon Jackson of Community Living Manitoulin (CLM). “Children will come here from all over the Island to have hours of fun on the beach. I wish I was 10-years-old again.”

“I was going to mention all the sponsors for this project, but I have at least two pages of names,” said Mr. Mitchell, pointing out the work done by Mr. Cranston, Mr. Jette and Mr. Dawson and the over 200 volunteers.

The new playground was dedicated and named after the late Annie McNichol, a lifelong resident of the area, at the opening ceremonies.

“I have the honour of welcoming all of you here today for the dedication of this playground in memory of a very, very special lady, Annie McNichol,” announced Murray McDermid. “A lot of you will not know Annie, but I hope when I am done you will know her very well.”

“Anne Jane McNichol, better known as Annie was a remarkable, wonderful lady,” said Mr. McDermid. “She was born on December 27, 1887 in the Township of Campbell on a farm on the old 14th Side Road. Her family resided here until about 1899 when they moved into a house across from J.F. McDermids until their new home was completed.”

“She lived in Providence Bay her whole life, having left for only five years to work for two wonderful ladies in Toronto who Annie said were very good to her,” continued Mr. McDermid, noting she ran a local store and “recorded all the local news writing the social column in the Manitoulin Recorder for 25 years. She was known far and wide for interesting conversation and her famous cup of hot tea. When you went to the door of her home and knocked on the door she would always say, ‘come in and have a hot cup of tea’.”

When a Providence Bay community cemetery map was destroyed and the community was looking to put a new one together, it was Annie McNichol who knew and put on the cemetery map the name of the person at every gravesite, identifying to who was buried where. “Nobody could believe anyone would remember all that, but that was just Annie,” concluded Mr. McDermid.

To learn more about the new playground or to watch the video recording from last Saturday of the playground build visit, www. ltbkprovidencebay.blogspot.ca.