People who fully understand what community means to waterfront development in Burlington on Wednesday.



September 17, 2013

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON.  At a time when Burlington’s city council struggles with what it wants to do with the Beachway Park the man, who created the Waterfront Trail that runs through the park and most of the province as well, will be in town for a presentation and a media event.

If there was ever an occasion for Mayor Goldring to seek the opinions of others on the Beachway Park – now is the time to do it and on Wednesday he will have an opportunity to listen to one of the best minds there is on waterfront development. Former Toronto Mayor met with Mayor Goldring at a Waterfront Advisory meeting a number of years ago. Time for another chat.

Mayor Goldring will be in the room for the event that will honour two people who have been instrumental in keeping the Waterfront Trail alive. Former Toronto Mayor David Crombie will be taking part in an event that will see an award in his name given to Marlaine Koehler and Vicki Barron in recognition of their significant contribution to the public realm over many years in their roles with the Waterfront Regeneration Trust.  

The David Crombie Award is given in recognition of people and initiatives that provide collaborative solutions to the complex problems facing Canada’s largest urban region – the Greater Golden Horseshoe, and, through engaging community members with government and private sector partners, support the repair, regeneration and/or enhancement of the region’s public realm.

That comes close to describing the problem and the opportunity Burlington faces with the Beachway Park.  The event could be a dream come true for the residents of the Beachway Park who are struggling to keep a community in the park. Crombie suggested to the city sometime ago some of the options it had with waterfront development.  Hopefully he will remind the city again during his visit.

Burlington is currently trying to figure out what it really wants to do with the homes.  While it looks as if expropriation and tearing the homes down is off the table – the current residents don’t feel at all comfortable with what they suspect is the city’s long term plan – which appears to be to let all but three of the existing structures stay and hope that over time the owners will eventually sell out to the city, the Region or Conservation Halton.

The Beachway residents are putting up a good fight and their efforts have brought about some changes. But the battle isn’t over yet.

What the city needs, as it thinks its way through what the Beachway Park could be, is a solid shot of imagination.  When David Crombie was last in Burlington, speaking to the Waterfront Access Protection Advisory Committee he asked if the city had a collection of oddballs that could think imaginatively.  Perhaps he was talking about the current residents of Beachway Park.

Is there anything for Burlington to learn from what was done with the Toronto Islands? At one point that city wanted to tear down all the homes and make it a gigantic park.

Marlaine Koehler and Vicki Barron work with the Waterfront Regeneration Trust, the organization that created the Waterfront Trail, that is in a bit of a shambles in Burlington right now.  Few Burlingtonians know that there was a point when Burlington was a leader in the creation of the Trail.  The two women being honoured on Wednesday oversaw the development and management of several innovative partnerships that made a dramatic contribution towards the regeneration of the Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River waterfront. 

For thousands of Ontarians, summer would not be complete without enjoying some time strolling, sunning, biking, running, or otherwise recreating along various stretches of Lake Ontario’s waterfront.  And yet, only 20 years ago there was no waterfront trail that existed, outside of some imaginations and a Royal Commission report with recommendations that the Waterfront Regeneration Trust was established to implement.

 In 1993, the Trust launched the Waterfront Trail and Greenway, the organization’s signature project, with a multi-faceted program that included sponsorship, major events, publications, and a collaborative branding program. By 1995, The Trust had accomplished the opening of the Waterfront Trail, a 350-kilometre, virtually continuous trail along the Lake Ontario shoreline, connecting hundreds of parks, historic and cultural sites, wildlife habitats and recreation areas from Stoney Creek to Trenton.

 From 2003 to 2008 the Lake Ontario Waterfront Investment Program delivered over $27 million of public and private investment to the Lake Ontario waterfront.  By 2008 the Waterfront Trail was 720 km from Niagara to Quebec, and connected 41 communities and over 182 parks and natural features. This year also saw the start of the Great Waterfront Trail Adventure, an annual ground-breaking public engagement program that encourages active transportation.  It is a fully supported recreational bike ride passing through the 27 communities along Lake Erie, Detroit River and Lake St. Clair, where participants can explore the communities along the trail over the course of a week.

In 2013 the Waterfront Trail will expand westwards along Lake Erie, adding a second Great Lake and 27 new waterfront communities along a signed, mostly on-road route. This work has been accomplished in partnership with communities in south-west Ontario, Carolinian Canada Coalition, Transportation Options and Share the Road.

A panel will discuss the impact that waterfront revitalization can have on connecting communities, and the various challenges and innovations along the way.  The key word there is “communities”: Burlington needs some help in seeing the bigger picture.

 Ken Greenberg, one of the speakers Mayor Goldring brought to Burlington as part of his Inspire series will be on the panel.  Greenberg fully understands the importance of community – perhaps he will leave more of his wisdom on Burlington’s doorstep.

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