Harbour of the Future

A Beaverton resident is pushing the Township for answers on the controversial ‘Harbour of the Future’ project.

In a letter to CAO/Clerk Thom Gettinby, Ken Scruton asked the municipality whether It was prepared to publicize a breakdown of the project following its completion.

“I would like to know if the citizens of Brock Township – and especially the residents of Beaverton – will be able to see a cost breakdown of the Green Municipalities Grant which Brock Township is using to develop the Harbour of the Future project, in collaboration with the Ontario Centre/ReWild, once this project is completed?,” the letter reads.

“Specifically, will we, the citizens, be able to learn about the cost of the materials, the cost of labour to build the elements of this this project, the cost of salaries – including those salaries paid not just to the installers of the equipment and materials, but also the salaries paid to the ReWild group – and what, if any, of the $300,000 grant is left over when this project is completed?”

The letter will be discussed at Monday’s (Oct. 16) council meeting and comes following a wave of criticism from local residents.

Along with a backlash to the project on social media, members of council received two letters – written by 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.

The second phase of the project – which involves construction of a walking path and retaining wall – got underway in late August with the removal of trees in the upper section of the park.

Township staff also removed several of the benches and planters that were erected during the first phase.