Editor’s note: The Current welcomes a new occasional contributor, Barry’s Bay resident Roger Prince, who provides the following commentary about the proposed redevelopment of the Kamaniskeg Lake waterfront in Barry’s Bay.
On Jan.17 I attended our township council meeting when the consulting firm Beacon Environmental presented their Concept Plan Report to Madawaska Valley Council and members of the public for the redevelopment of MV Township Lakeshore Park located in Barry’s Bay. I invite the reader to review the report found on the township website. (Scroll down for web link.) In the interim here are my thoughts.
Beacon Environmental provided a well thought out, cohesive plan incorporating many of the elements designed to serve most age demographics within our community. The conceptual design recommendations provided by Beacon taken as a whole provide, as their executive summary states, “A beautiful, environmentally sustainable, ecologically appropriate and ‘climate smart’ community greenspace that is fully accessible and safe, that is responsive to the community needs, and which fully represents the sites natural and cultural history.” The Beacon concept plan report covers many wish list items provided by the public in a survey undertaken by the municipality.
The public recommended the following improvements addressed in the report:
- Splash pad
- Better playground equipment
- Basketball nets, and other teen/youth-oriented equipment
- Increased seating, shade shelters and lighting
- Increased trails and paths for walking/biking
- Band shelter/ stage
- Concession – Snack bar, food truck parking, vendors
- Accessibility – Ensuring Park is a space for all ages and abilities.
- More parking available
- Improved washrooms, open throughout the year
Not included in the report were a skate park and pickleball courts as suggested in the community survey. Many communities have provided a skate park which youth and teens migrate to typically in large numbers. Active adults are engaging in new sports such as pickleball.
The report encompasses much of what the public has suggested and provides a credible list of activities for most age demographics. This redevelopment is long overdue. I’ll refrain from commenting on the current state of Lakeshore Park and let you travel by the park to witness first-hand the apparent lack of use of this beautiful space.
Water and wastewater treatment plant
If you are driving by, I’d remind you to keep your windows rolled up and I’m certain I don’t have to say why. However, let’s address the “elephant in the room.” The report provides suggestions to hide the waste treatment plant and the ugly chain link fence which is detailed in their arboricultural assessment. This remediates aesthetics; however, the bigger problem is emissions of noxious fumes which grossly interfere with any enjoyment of the site. Let’s not look back as to how it became located on one of the most beautiful parcels of public space in our township. The question I would pose to council is that if the city of Calgary can relocate their waste treatment site with government funding why are we not looking at the prospects, especially with the township owning land removed from waterways more suitable to a waste treatment site. That requires leadership, vision, and forward thinking, developing a well thought out plan that other levels of government could financially support. What a gift this would represent for future generations in concert with the development of this stunningly beautiful and iconic site. In addition to noxious fumes, the amount of silt created at the mouth of the plant is substantial. Should one be brave enough to walk past the plant, you would find yourself mired in silt somewhere above your knees and in places to your waist. The other matter which begs a question, does the treatment plant represent a health risk to the public and contribute to a higher E. coli count shutting down the swimming area on those hot summer days? The current explanation is it’s the fault of those darn geese. Speaking of the waste, I’ve been advised that there are offloading facilities readily available for RVs. Who knew? What a wonderful opportunity to encourage tourists to make that vital stop and take time to enjoy the amenities found throughout our community.
Geese and more
Speaking of geese, a portion of the report delves into various aspects of their life cycle along with a multitude of methods to manage their population. I would add one more for consideration that has been deemed successful at Guelph Lake. The municipality engaged members of the art community to create metal silhouettes of a natural enemy of geese and placed them at various points along the waterfront. The images of foxes substantially reduced the geese population along the waterfront.
It was nice to see the recommendation of accommodating food trucks. The enticing proposition of something other than burgers and fries is very inviting. I would have to ask are food truck/vendors even allowed under current by-laws (other than the established chip wagons)?
The report also suggests relocating the Visitor Information Centre from the Railway Station to the waterfront. In my opinion, removing it from its current high traffic area would not be in the best interests of the community and the local retail shops. The report suggests combining it with a food concession stand for the township to run. I believe that this would be a bad idea. The track record of township council running other businesses has been poor at best. One only has to look at the ski hill as an example which was a vibrant location in its early days and sadly we let this jewel slide into private hands, who later sold it for profit. Another glaring example is the tennis club, which I’m told had a membership north of 100 when run independently by a volunteer organization. Since the township took over operations, membership has dropped to about 40 members.
The proposed board walk would be a wonderful addition to the park; however it would be a missed opportunity if it ends at the waste treatment plant. The report ignores our “other park” located a short distance away: the town’s public docks which are surrounded by more parkland. My observation has been that this stretch of parkland is more heavily used than the public beach area. As a dog lover and owner and living in walking distance of this parkland I may be biased as we frequent this area more often. It behooves Council to consider extending the boardwalk to link these precious spaces. Is there a provincially-owned 66-foot road allowance along the waterfront to link these spaces? A second option would be to extend the boardwalk along the paved road providing a safe space for pedestrians and cyclists. Council can review other communities that have successfully overcome these issues; for example, the Goderich boardwalk which was faced with similar challenges. Their forward-thinking council implemented a plan to bring various facets of their waterfront together skirting private residences to provide one continuous and very enjoyable wooden board walk, with space for food vendors, wedding parties, beautiful public beaches, plenty of parking and easy access to the downtown core. Closer to home Pembroke and Deep River both offer a shining example of connected waterfront with a beautiful, historically rich boardwalk and marina.
The prospect of a band shell is very exciting. I can attest to their popularity supporting many aspects of a vibrant community. Living in Aurora for 35 years and Uxbridge for 10, both communities benefited immensely from a wide range of uses with the band shell as a focal point. Such activities included children/youth and teen programs/events, acting groups, live music, art in the park, movie night, civic events and much more. In passing through Bancroft I have witnessed full parking lots with various events the town has hosted in their park/band shell.
After completion of the presentation by Beacon Environmental, the Mayor invited questions and comments from members of Council, but there were none.
The redesign of our Lakeshore Park(s) is a tremendous opportunity for this Council to take a real leadership role. We’ll be watching with great interest to see if they have the vision and ability to act in the best interest of the whole community and do the right thing.
I invite readers to express your views by leaving a comment in the “Reply” section below.
About the author: Prior to returning to Barry’s Bay where he grew up, Roger enjoyed a 35-year career in leadership and executive roles with technology and software companies. His support of government agencies and municipalities throughout North America and abroad gave him a deep understanding of successful attributes for effective leaders in this space. As a Founder and President of 100 Men Who Care and Board Member with Durham Hospice and Advisor Board member with one of IBM’S Think tanks, Roger has always looked for ways to give back to his community.