Thoughts on proposed redevelopment of Lakeshore Park on Barry’s Bay waterfront

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.

Consultants’ presentation

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.

Boardwalk

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.

Council‘s response

After completion of the presentation by Beacon Environmental, the Mayor invited questions and comments from members of Council, but there were none.

P.S.

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.

Click HERE to access the full Report on MV Township’s website.

I invite readers to express your views by leaving a comment in the “Reply” section below.

Roger Prince

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.

3 Comments

  1. Bill Schroeder

    Regarding Prince’s critique of the Beacon proposal. Firstly, we should recognize that park redevelopment should be for local residents, permanent and seasonal, not tourists. Tourists travelling to Algonquin Park etc. are unlikely to be impressed or interested in a short 1km detour along the shoreline in a random village. We are much more likely to attract them (and dollars), with Zurakowski Park, the Railway Station, and the arts and craft stores that offer them something different. Lakeshore Park should be for local folks to spend time with their family and friends, especially those without their own waterfront.

    – I agree there should be better linkage between the beach park and the boat launch. Several councils ago, an asphalt path, grandiosely named the Omanique Beach Waterfront Trail, extended from the beach to Mask Island causeway, and included designated markings along the road past the water treatment plant. This link was severed during some infrastructure work awhile back and was never restored. That could easily be done. Also I wonder if that trail could be extended along the shoreline west of the causeway below the cemetery, assuming a 66-foot shoreline allowance exists, perhaps all the way to the proposed new subdivision across from the hospital. That might then be appropriately called a “trail”.
    – Beacon’s report is understandably critical of the scrawny spruce on the east side of the water plant that utterly fail to provide any effective camouflage of the unsightly structure. However, the winter snowmobile trail traverses that area and any new landscaping ideas need to consider winter usage.
    – A splash pad sounds nice in theory but there are at least two major red flags. Firstly, water usage’ e.g. the new splash pad in Eganville has resulted in considerable strain on the village’s water system. There have been a number of articles in the Leader describing having to shut down the splash pad during busy periods that impacted the whole village’s water supply. Do we want extra strain on our antiquated system? Is spraying geyser volumes of fresh water, right beside a natural lake, good environmental stewardship? A second major red flag involves the geese. The proposal includes some geese mitigation ideas that require several years of consistent effort to yield results. Clearly this must happen FIRST. If we start with the splash pad we simply create a giant bird bath for geese. They will love it but I won’t take my grandkids there.
    – I don’t see the need for the 40-vehicle parking lot in the report. The current dozen or so spots near the tennis courts almost always seem adequate. During fireworks or beach volleyball tournaments cars tend to park along the road, not ideal but infrequent enough that a big new patch of pavement hardly seems a wise use of resources.
    – I don’t think we need another chip truck; three seems sufficient for a village of 1200.

  2. Eve-Marie Chamot

    Perhaps it would be best to start with process upgrades to the sewage treatment plant to make it a bit more pleasant before improving the park itself. Btw, it’s there for a good reason:- most of BB is in the drainage watershed of Biernacki Creek which drains into Kam Lake just to the west so this is the natural place to terminate all the main sewer lines:- it’s just “Engineering 101”:- water runs downhill although it will occasionally run uphill towards money but there’s not much of that around here. Where else would you put it? This location often gets a stiff chilly breeze off Kam Lake so it’s not really a good place for a bandshell or much of anything else other than a public beach and picnic ground. Public washrooms are ok but why keep them open year-round outside of beach and picnic season when no one will use them. Running a chip wagon or food truck is a very marginal occupation even in a big city so don’t expect anyone to run one here. As for the geese, encourage dog walkers to visit and their dogs will keep the geese moving! This is a small rural community so what works in a big city will not work in this rural backwater and of course the rural residents will object to spending scarce ratepayer funds on a village park which no one will use anyway. MVT should focus more on an expansion of facilities at Paul Yakabuski CC with the tennis courts, skate park, etc going in there:- ideally you would want a nice new extension like the one in Apsley but first MVT needs to rustle up some new money (and those new development charges will scare away new private investments and developments). Btw, forget those expensive big-city consultants proposing costly unrealistic plans:- MVT Council needs to establish a Recreational Committee which includes interested residents to work out a plan of expansion of new facilities at PJY CC. Btw, the ski hill failed for lack of demand and the point came when the Township could not afford to replace the steel cable for the chairlift:- you need to attract more winter “customers” for facilities like that.

    MVT does not especially need this project and really cannot afford it so forget about it. The last Council liked to pretend they were a big-city council and spend money on all sorts of studies and consultants to make themselves feel important but the voters voted them out last Fall in favor of a more sensible approach so let’s shelve all these studies for unnecessary and unaffordable projects and new taxes and focus on the big fundamental around here:- ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT! This Township is not a gentrified suburb of Toronto or Ottawa, it’s just what it is:- a rural backwater which very much needs more economic development so let’s focus on that.

  3. Dan Olshen

    The “Beacon Proposal” for the Kamaniskeg Waterfront needs serious consideration and discussion. Objections will surface due to costs in much the same format as we witnessed when the Paul J. Yakabuski Centre was proposed. PJYC is the signature public Centre of the community and the MV is signicantly richer for its development. Otherwise, we would have no hub for critical recreational activities and our youth would have to play on outdoor rinks, etc. Roger clearly elaborates on the key components for a viable waterfront and highlights how other Municipalities like Deep River, Pembroke, Goderich, et al have developed and enriched their waterfront not only for their recreational significance but as catalysts for economic development and future prosperity. The MV is becoming a backwater for economic prospects, and in the retention of its youth. The Millennials and Gen xers also have largely disappeared from the area due to lack of economic opportunities, modern amenities and recreational outlets. Financing of the project could undertake several avenues like long-term Municipal bonds, grants, reserve funds, phased in levies and public/private partnerships with groups like the Algonquins who have significant land claims on Kam.
    Beacon cites the “Wastewater Treatment Plant” as predatory to this beautiful waterfront, and suggests it be camouflaged. It only rivals the Bank of Montreal Branch as the most unappealing structure in Barry Bay. We can forgo this opportunity to revitalize the waterfront which is one of few precious crown jewels remaining in this area to exploit properly or in the alternative: Forgo its development and remain a venue where tourists/visitors will go to Tim’s and just drive on by, as there is no reason to stop except for fuel and coffee, and maybe a 5-minute sojourn at Zurakowski Park. Currently, we have an 80s mindset where we project ourselves as an outlet for NASCAR type activities like groomed ATV/snowmobile trails and speedboating on Kam. These activities will be marginalized in the very near green future as the modern urban visitor seeks solace and harmonized/ pristine landscapes, adjacent waterfront accessibility, hospitable amenities and other leisurely outdoor non-motorized activities where the “Waterfront Proposal” could spearhead this advance, and generate much needed economic ROI in the MV.
    This proposal does not suggest we make this area similar to the vaunted Huntsville (ON) or Canmore (AB) but is a realistic approach to exploit one of the few accessible legacy public sites remaining in the MV. As Roger suggests: Let’s not forgo this unique opportunity and have another “Ski Hill” morass to bequeath to our youth and children.

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