Feedback about the “coffin-like” benches at the Beaverton Harbour will be taken into consideration as the organization behind the project prepares for the second phase.
“Like all experiments, there are certain elements that work very well and other elements, not so much,” said Hilary Van Welter of the Ontario Water Centre (OWC) at Monday (July 31) night’s Brock Township council meeting.
“It certainly got people talking. Not that we want people talking about coffins but it certainly raised awareness.”
The acknowledgement of the likeness to coffins came after Regional Councillor Ted Smith asked if their design was intentional.
“It mimics the patterns in the ground,” said Mitch Harrow of the OWC, noting the idea behind the design was to recreate the idea of a berm, not a coffin.
“We are listening and we hear that the design isn’t one that should be repeated,” he told council.
Motioning to the full gallery, Harrow said, “that people are here and are talking about it, that excites us.”
In addition to the OWC presentation, politicians also heard from residents opposing the development of the “Harbour of the Future”. Two letters, written by Ken Scruton and Jeff Brown, referred to the benches and garden planters as “coffins” or “coffin-like”.
Brown went a step further, calling the garden area a “baby graveyard” and questioned whether the project should be moved to Thorah Centennial Park.
“(The) Beaverton beach and dock area has limited area and parking for this growing community,” he wrote.
Both also criticized the caliber of work done on a gravel and tar pathway that was completed as part of the project.
“It is not very easy to walk on as the gravel is now coming away from the tar layer,” Scruton wrote.
“Seniors have told me they cannot use it if needing to use a walker; caregivers with wheelchair patients cannot negotiate the path and find the sloping and sometimes busy roadway somewhat of a challenge.”
In addition to the presentation from Van Welter and Harrow, the OWC also sent in a lengthy letter explaining the project.
“The harbour area consists of grassy hills that are mostly monoculture grass with hard surfaces that do little to infiltrate runoff. As well, the area has many asphalt roadways that act as stormwater highways, carrying oil, gas, road salt and suspended solids into the water. Many people use the Harbour as a place to park their car or boat while touring Lake Simcoe so there are certain pollutants that may be present in larger quantities such as oil, gas, metals and sodium that rain is washing into the harbour. Islands of grassy hills surrounded by asphalt roadways create a recipe for erosion and sedimentation, which in turn create unhealthy waterways,” the letter reads.
“In addition, the playground is situated in a low-lying park at the bottom of two hills and a road. Children and pets occupy this spot and when a rain event occurs, the remains are washed toward the beach area. These pollutants could be contributing to poor water quality, and subsequent beach closures that have increased in the last four years.”
It also explains the concept behind the ‘Harbour of the Future’ tagline.
“The ‘Harbour of the Future’ is an experimental stormwater system that works to infiltrate the stormwater from the typical rain event, while offering people new spaces to enjoy the area. This system is also intended to handle spring run-off. This innovative system is also being developed to test new ways municipalities can use more natural and far less costly approaches to deal with the growing impact of climate change in their urbanized areas,” the letter reads.
“The Green Municipal Fund of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities chose to provide funding to Brock Township to conduct this experiment on behalf of municipalities across Canada, after a significant expert review because, in part, of its innovative design.”
The initiative is testing four different design features – including people gardens, accessible pathways, road resurfacing and ‘razzle dazzle,’ a structure right next to the water that combines seating, boardwalk, plantings and trenching – and aims to divert and filter more than one million litres of stormwater per year.
The letter also provides an explanation for why things look the way they do.
“Every single detail of the design, including the benches, are built the way they are for water capture, infiltration and cleansing. The seating is created for water and people. In razzle dazzle, each rests at a different height to accommodate the many different people that visit the harbour. There are no backs on the bench since this gives a potential 360-degree view,” the letter reads.
“The benches in the people garden and razzle dazzle capture stormwater in the warmer months with their beveled tops and in the winter have lids that can be taken off converting them into snow catchers. Once captured, the snow is slowly melted and infiltrated into the ground. The planter boxes serve a similar purpose. Each plant and surface has been carefully selected so that it can undertake its stormwater functions.”
The second phase of the project is slated to get underway this fall, according to the letter.
“We are now evaluating the design in terms of its environmental effectiveness, as well as community reaction. The evaluation will be used to make modifications to the original site plan, as well as the 2 remaining people gardens, roadwork, and pathways. These redesigns will be shared through a community engagement before construction of Phase Two begins in September.”
At Monday’s meeting, Councillor Cyndi Schaffer told Van Welter and Harrow she felt they had addressed many of the concerns raised by residents but wanted to clarify the timeline for potential modifications.
Van Welter responded, confidently, “We believe there is time to make the modifications and still meet the schedule set by the Green Municipal Fund.”
She said there are budgetary constraints to be taken into account but in addition to planning modifications to Phase Two, the OWC is considering how the design of Phase One could be altered.
“It’s back to us to look at what kind of redesign needs to happen. There’s a number of modifications already in the works,” said Van Welter.
“We’ve got some twigs to figure out and some tweaks to make.”
Mayor John Grant, a self-proclaimed “staunch supporter since the beginning,” recognized the OWC for their willingness to work with the community.
“Thank you for listening to te residents and for helping us to be leaders in protecting the lake.”