Land largesse in Bay Roberts

Eric Jer­rett do­nates land for pro­posed new re­cre­ation fa­cil­ity

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY TERRY ROBERTS

A pro­posal to build a new re­cre­ation cen­tre in Bay Roberts has re­ceived a sig­nif­i­cant boost in the form of a ma­jor do­na­tion from a lo­cal busi­ness­man who is well known for his gen­eros­ity and vol­un­teer pur­suits.

Eric Jer­rett con­firmed re­cently that he has agreed to do­nate up to three acres of land to the town. Es­ti­mates vary greatly on the value of the do­na­tion, rang­ing any­where from $150,000 to $400,000 for the prime piece of acreage, which is sit­u­ated off Track Road, di­rectly be­hind Amal­ga­mated Academy.

Town of­fi­cials had iden­ti­fied the site as its pre­ferred lo­ca­tion for the pro­posed fa­cil­ity, since it is within walk­ing dis­tance of two ma­jor schools and the Wil­bur Sparkes out­door re­cre­ation com­plex.

Deputy Mayor Philip Wood ap­proached Jer­rett with the idea of do­nat­ing the land, and Jer­rett agreed.

“ This moves it along greatly,” Coun. Wal­ter Yet­man, li­ai­son with the town’s re­cre­ation depart­ment, said re­cently.

“ We have some­thing to work with now be­cause the ma­jor is­sue be­fore was site se­lec­tion.”

Help­ing out

So why would Jer­rett do­nate such a valu­able piece of prop­erty? To an­swer that ques­tion, we need to go back more than 40 years.

Jer­rett was in­stru­men­tal in the con­struc­tion of the Bay Roberts swim­ming pool in the late 1960s. He was a mem­ber of the Lions Club at the time and rec­og­nized the need for such a fa­cil­ity.

Jer­rett is an en­gi­neer and ar­chi­tect, and agreed to lead the de­sign and con­struc­tion of the pool – at no cost – on be­half of the Lions Club. He was also a school board trustee and con­vinced the board to make land avail­able next to As­cen­sion Col­le­giate for the pool.

Sev­eral years later, Bay Roberts be­came the first town out­side of larger cen­tres such as St. John’s, Gan­der, Grand Falls and Cor­ner Brook to have an en­closed, heated pub­lic swim­ming pool.

Jer­rett and oth­ers even signed per­sonal bank loans in or­der to come up with the money for the pro­ject. There were walkathons and other fundrais­ers, and the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment also chipped in with money.

“I’m one of the few left that re­ally knows the full his­tory of the ex­ist­ing pool,” he said.

Suc­cess­ful in busi­ness

The cen­ter­piece of the pro­posed new fa­cil­ity is a swim­ming pool, which means the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity, which now only op­er­ates in the sum­mer, would close. Jer­rett felt it made sense for him to step for­ward once again and help out.

He was mo­ti­vated four decades ago by his two young chil­dren, and a lack of op­tions for swim­ming in the town. To­day, he has dif­fer­ent mo­tives.

He’s been very suc­cess­ful in busi­ness, hav­ing owned and man­aged an ar­chi­tec­tural, en­gi­neer­ing and land-sur­vey­ing firm for more than 40 years. He was the en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tant for the Town of Bay Roberts for a decade, dur­ing what he jok­ingly refers to as the “nitty-gritty days.”

His firm de­signed many schools in the prov­ince, in­clud­ing As­cen­sion and Amal­ga­mated, and at least 10 en­closed swim­ming pools.

Jer­rett also has a va­ri­ety of real es­tate hold­ings, in­clud­ing about 20 acres of un­de­vel­oped land be­tween the Con­cep­tion Bay High­way, Bar­racks Road and Track Road.

He had plans to sub­di­vide the land into a 34-lot res­i­den­tial sub­di­vi­sion, but will now mod­ify those plans in or­der to ac­com­mo­date the re­cre­ation fa­cil­ity. And with talk of a new school be­ing built in the near fu­ture to re­place Co­ley’s Point Pri­mary, Jer­rett sug­gested that it could be built ad­ja­cent to the pool.

“ This is the right place to put that school,” he said, adding that three large schools would be within a short dis­tance of each other.

Giv­ing back

Jer­rett said he is pleased to help the pro­posed pro­ject move along.

“I played such a role in get­ting this swim­ming pool there. Now it’s out­dated, and there’s a big­ger need now for a pool than it was then,” he told The Com­pass re­cently.

“ Our pop­u­la­tion has grown and peo­ple are more re­cre­ation-minded then they were. So there’s a greater need for a new, mod­ern pool.”

The town com­mis­sioned a study two years ago into the fea­si­bil­ity of con­struct­ing a new mul­tipur­pose fa­cil­ity. It found the town could sup­port an in­door pool, a large hall/gym­na­sium for sports and per­for­mances, over 5,000 square feet of ad­di­tional multi-pur­pose space and space for ten­ants, if ap­pro­pri­ate.

A walk­ing track was the No. 1 pri­or­ity for those sur­veyed for the study.

The con­sul­tants put the es­ti­mated cost of the pro­ject at $20 mil­lion, but town of­fi­cials have in­di­cated that a phased ap­proach may be the pre­ferred op­tion.

The town coun­cil gave ap­proval in prin­ci­ple to the land do­na­tion at its March 22 meet­ing, and a steer­ing com­mit­tee is ex­pected to once again kick­start the plan­ning process, said Coun. Yet­man.

“ We see a very im­por­tant need in our com­mu­nity. The pub­lic is telling us that too,” Yet­man said.

The town will re­quire fi­nan­cial help from other lev­els of gov­ern­ment, but no com­mit­ments have yet been made.

Nam­ing priv­i­leges

Jer­rett em­pha­sized that he’s not look­ing for praise or pub­lic­ity, and ini­tially thought about keep­ing the do­na­tion a pri­vate mat­ter be­tween him and the town coun­cil.

“I would pre­fer that my ac­tions not de­tract from the town’s plans for the fu­ture. That is the real news that needs re­port­ing,” he said.

It’s been in­di­cated to Jer­rett that he might get nam­ing priv­i­leges for the fa­cil­ity, but he did not make that a con­di­tion of the agree­ment. His only con­di­tion is that the land be used specif­i­cally for the re­cre­ation cen­tre.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.