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May. 20, 2022 | Friday
Local News
Widening of park footpath angers residents: Town blamed for poor communication
Ron Simkus, a NOTL resident and retired engineer, discusses the widening of the footpath for shoreline protection near a Delater Street parkette. (Brittany Carter/NiagaraNow)

The temporary widening of a footpath through a parkette near Delater Street to allow ongoing work on shoreline protection angered some area residents on Thursday.

Neighbours say poor communication and a lack of notice from the town about the plan caught them off-guard when work began Wednesday morning. And some residents said they feared the widened footpath would have been permanent if they had not loudly complained publicly about it.

Shoreline protection has been scheduled in the area since January. Work couldn't be completed in the winter due to weather, pending budget approvals and lack of government agency approvals, said a public notice from the town.

The widening and stabilizing of the footpath through the parkette, which the town refers to as Ball’s Beach Park, was approved to allow large vehicles to transport rocks and boulders to the shoreline.

The ground was saturated due to rain, fresh melt and high-water levels, which caused construction vehicles to sink. The path had to be widened and stabilized to ensure the vehicles could pass through safely, said Sheldon Randall, the town's director of operations. He said the decision was made out of necessity.

“We had a meeting on site with all of our supervisors. We felt that that was the safest route to come in and continue doing the work. So, we had consensus among staff that that’s how we should move forward,” Randall said.

Brett Ruck, the town's environmental services supervisor, said when it was realized that the footpath wasn't stable enough to support trucks, a plan had to be made to get the rocks to the shoreline.

“The work down there is part of the shoreline stabilization projects that we’ve identified to council … We were trying to place rock in between and along the shoreline there, to protect from the action of the waves, so we can minimize the water from going across the park and into people’s backyards,” said Ruck.

Ron Simkus, a retired engineer and NOTL resident who lives near Delater Street, said he agrees that shoreline protection work needs to be complete, but he isn’t happy with the lack of communication regarding the project.

Simkus is the author of an email blast recording the water levels of the lake and has kept a close eye on the rising water. He also has been following the shoreline protection work closely.

He said the neighbourhood was concerned about the town permanently damaging the area. After town officials met at the parkette Thursday morning, though, he said he was satisfied that the footpath would be restored to its previous state once work is complete. Although, had residents not gotten involved, he said he doesn’t know if that would have happened.

"I noticed they had started building a road through the park. Fortunately (Lord Mayor) Betty (Disero) got involved and got them to agree that what they’re doing is not permanent and they have to restore the footpath to the way it was before, and just use this as a temporary measure to get the stones we need to the shoreline."

“Unless we got involved, I think the road was going to be a permanent road, and I think that’s what got everyone so mad. Because we have spent almost two decades designing this footpath and the greenspace in the park, and we just can’t fathom having a roadway through it,” Simkus said.

The public notice released on Thursday said the town provided notices to residents about the high water levels on May 2. At that time, it was announced that sandbags would be made available and pumps installed in the area. A number of preventive measures were outlined in the notice, including the closing of Ball’s Beach Park for safety reasons.

Randall said there wasn’t time to notify residents immediately about the widening of the path, but it was well within the plan and communication as scheduled for Thursday afternoon.

“No, we didn’t have time at that point, (to notify the residents) we just wanted to continue moving forward. Today our plan was to put out some communications to our residents, and we’ll be doing that later today,” Randall said.