Throughout my extensive business travels I typically found that communities which were situated on the water be it a lake, river or the ocean had waterfront areas that were well planned and effectively utilized as a key economic driver as well as offering immense recreational enjoyment of the residents and visitors. People for the most part are drawn to the water, it seems to have an almost “mystical” power. There are even examples where an artificial form of waterfront environment have been created for people to enjoy, the West Edmonton Mall and the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas with its indoor Venice-like canals are just two such examples.
In my very first posting on my municipal blog http://anewcollingwood.blogspot.ca/2014_05_01_archive.html back in May I made this statement about our waterfront:
“Our waterfront remains an under-utilized asset both economically as well as a unique recreational amenity offering immense economic and enjoyment potential for the community and visitors alike. The economic and aesthetic vitality of our historic downtown core is slowing eroding away, a situation that need not exist and can be remedied with strong economic initiatives and thoughtful municipal planning.”
I believe that our waterfront and the downtown core are very much connected yet we have failed to establish and maintain a strong physical connection between the two. Similar to Collingwood, Toronto is another example where for the most part, the waterfront in under-utilized and not readily accessible to the public-at-large. On the other, Chicago (where I lived for four years) is a great example where the waterfront has been effectively developed so as to allow community access with beaches, parks, marinas an aquarium and more.
The following is a quote from the Vision 2020 document:
The waterfront is the soul of the community and is its single most important asset. It is visible, accessible, and clean and all development on or near to it respects the Town of Collingwood’s core values and its vision.
This is a great quote and an admirable objective however we have not made the waterfront one of our “core values” nor have we shown any significant “vision” as to its development. If we had, we would not have a sewage treatment plant, a grocery store, courthouse, and soon a bank and drug store occupying the shoreline. I believe the very last word in this quote is the key element as to what is needed to maximize the potential of our waterfront. “Vision!” The town must take the lead role in providing this vision for the future of our harbourlands while seeking out a suitable partner(s) to make that vision a reality. The recent addition of the docking facilities alone have made a noticeable improvement to the harbour adding some visual interest and activity that simply wasn’t there before. We need to expand on that with a longer term plan. In the short term, we need to address the current unsightly mess that exists within the uncompleted Shipyards development.
I don’t believe anyone would argue that the current limited use of Collingwood’s waterfront would put it in the category of an “underutilized asset” because of enhancements that still need to be done (ie. The Terminals) . That being the case it is vitally important and one of my immediate goals for Council to develop, in conjunction with our overall plan and vision, an updated waterfront utilization plan. The enhancement of economic and destination development is something I will be focusing upon right from the start. I believe there are many great steps that have taken place (for example – taking advantage of the divestiture opportunity to move the harbor from Federal to Collingwood’s ownership) but we need to come up with innovative approaches to transform our waterfront further so it is properly utilized to create a welcoming destination location. Much of the change will most likely need to come from our partnering with private investment and Council has to find ways to empower the individuals or companies that will have aspirations and want to take innovative ideas forward. Part of our program of promoting the message that Collingwood is open for business has to be that it includes the further development of the waterfront in ways that accentuate commercial business and public uses. It would be premature to make any specific suggestions on immediate utilization steps because I need to learn more about the factors that will influence what we can do. But I can commit that I will continue to study the matter thoroughly as I prepare for working diligently with the new Council to take on this challenging endeavor.
I would also add that obviously Collingwood Harbour’s revitalization is an integral component of any overall waterfront plan. Not many years ago Collingwood progressively fast-tracked a Remedial Action Plan/solution to clean up the harbor from the negative impact of many years of vital commercial and industrial use. Our RAP(the CPU played an integral part in it) was very successful and we now see things like marine and wildlife returning and flourishing in the renewed clean natural environment. Over the years there has been much debate about further revitalization steps, which sometimes has resulted in diametrically opposing views on what should be done. There have been very recent steps taken by the current council to make some investment to implement changes and as a member of next council I will be looking to review the progress and ensure that it is moving in the direction that was planned or find out why if it hasn’t. Importantly then we will also need to find ways to come up with a cooperative viewpoint that gets everyone’s energy moving in the same direction. That will help us get together to make a difference.
In closing on this question I would just add that there will be many factors to consider during this process, none of which is larger or more important than the disturbing drop in some Great Lake water levels that has directly impacted Nottawasaga Bay. In that regard I support the initiative taken by local government to participate along with business organizations and our grassroots public to take this issue forward to the highest levels of Canadian and US government. We can’t just simply have a mostly “water view” situation, we need to have as much “water access” as possible. If the lower level is allowed to stay in place it may severely limit the options that water access should provide. The lower level is not acceptable and must be reversed to a more appropriate average level. In my opinion this is a case where change is not an option but rather a necessity. Especially in Collingwood’s case as we attempt to initiate innovative changes to create a waterfront that will be envy of many communities and make us a destination of choice for even more reasons.
Joe Gardhouse Candidate for Mayor
Did not respond to the question.
Did not respond to the question.