A project to make the Beaverton Harbour more environmentally friendly continues to draw criticism from local residents.
Work on the second phase of the ‘Harbour of the Future’ project – funded by the Ontario Water Centre (OWC) with support from Brock Township – formally got underway with this week, with the removal of trees in the upper section of the park.
“The removal of the trees is being completed in preparation for the construction of a pathway and retaining wall later this month,” explained Brock Township Works Director Nick Colucci.
“Staff will also be removing a few benches and planters from the first phase of the project in response to community input.”
The project has generated a fair amount of negative feedback since it launched earlier this year and that trend certainly continued following the removal of the trees, with several people taking to social media to express their concerns.
While she acknowledged those concerns, Ward 2 Councillor Cyndi Schaffer urged residents to wait until the project is finished before passing judgment.
“We need everyone to be patient and wait for the final outcome,” she said.
Earlier this summer, members of township council reviewed two letters – written by Ken Scruton and Jeff Brown – that referred to the benches and garden planters that were completed during the first phase of the project 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.
In response to those concerns – as well as others raised by local residents — Hilary Van Welter and Mitch Harrow of the OWC made a presentation to council on July 31.
“Like all experiments, there are certain elements that work very well and other elements, not so much,” Van Welter said.
“It certainly got people talking. Not that we want people talking about coffins but it certainly raised awareness.”
“We are listening and we hear that the design isn’t one that should be repeated,” Harrow added, noting that the design was intended to mimic the pattern of a berm, not a coffin.
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.