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Monday, December 5, 2022
Letter to the editor: Town council shouldnt sleep on wetlands


Dear Editor,

As intended, Jim Smith’s picture of the Shepherd Boat Works on Ricardo Street brought back many memories, some pleasant, some less desirable. When the Shepherd company closed its doors in 1978, the property was put on sale.

This was the perfect time for the town to purchase a large piece of its waterfront to serve as a park for all residents to enjoy. Instead the Town Council slept through the moment, allowing Eric Moog, a Toronto developer, to snap up the land. After about twenty years he then created King’s Point, a nice retreat for a few well-to-do, but a complete denial of even the view of the water for all other town residents.

Some years later Gillingham Marina closed and was offered for sale, and again the town council of the time failed to see the advantage of acquiring this large piece of waterfront property.

Finally the NOTL Sailing Club purchased it, charging sizable membership fees to defray the costs and barring non-members access to the water. Gillingham had allowed use of its boat ramp to outsiders like me with trailerable boats for a moderate fee.

The point here is that various town councils have failed to serve the greater community, by not recognizing vital decision making moments. (For an example of what can be done, with astute visionaries at the helm, one should look at the Chicago waterfront and read about its history, in contrast with the mess that is lakefront Toronto). What, one wonders, will our present Niagara-on-the-Lake council do?

I notice that the Harmony group are still lobbying hard to make the old sewage pond area into a designated wetlands area, a seemingly worthwhile endeavour. Yet, one wonders about the motivation. Could it be an attempt to keep the land next to Chautauqua, free of human activity, or development, to the benefit of the homeowners?

I note that council is already bending to their demands. What about the rest of greater Niagara-on-the-Lake’s residents? Are there other uses for this land which might be enjoyed by larger numbers of people?

I believe it was long-time town councillor Jim Collard who recommended the building of a boat ramp somewhere on that property’s shoreline.

Having a boat at that time, I would have greatly appreciated such access, a norm for most waterfront towns. Instead I was obliged to tow my boat from Garrison Village to Queenston and later to Port Weller as the Queenston ramp area became increasingly awkward and deteriorated. All that so that I could enjoy boating past our lovely town.

I no longer have a boat, but I have no doubt there are many others who would enjoy such a water access.

And this is only one of many uses to which this large property could be put. While the Niagara Parks Commission (which owns the property) is willing to listen to suggestions from Town Council, let us hope that this council will not narrow the options to one promoted by, and benefitting only, one small but vociferous group.

Just like the Shepherd Boat works property, once we have lost it, we will not get it back.

James Tupman