Troy Shantz and George Mathewson
The long-promised municipal boat launches in Sarnia Bay likely won’t be ready by the June 2 deadline, City Hall can’t say when they will be installed and area business operators are growing frustrated.
“The main issue is the lack of communication for completion,” said Brian Vickery, co-owner of Dockside Restaurant.
“We literally have no answers to give anyone as far as when it’s going to be done.”
Vickery is also concerned the boat launch area under construction is uncomfortably close to the Dockside patio, which he operates with wife Tammy.
“We always knew it would be there but our impression, and from the drawings we were shown, was that it would be further away from the patio,” he said.
Just down the road the co-owner of Paddy Flaherty’s said the Irish Pub is struggling to cope with ongoing construction, lengthy water shut-offs and dust storms blowing in from ungrassed areas in the reconstructed Centennial Park.
“It has affected business,” Scott Dargie said.
The city announced in January that completion date of the $11-million park remediation had been pushed back another six months, with the playground and lands to east opening May 26 and the boat ramps and area to the west by June 2.
A progress update Friday confirmed new playground equipment has been installed, a planned “healing garden” is nearly complete and 75% of the concrete pathways have been poured.
Trees and shrubs are being planted and the bare ground will be seeded with grass in the next few weeks, weather permitting, a staff report notes.
But the boat ramps are stalled despite staff “diligently pressing” the contractor, Bre-X Construction, and contract administrator, Golder Associates, the report notes.
“We’re working on that right now,” city engineer Andre Morin told The Journal. “We’re trying to work through some of these challenges and come up with a design that will allow that boat ramp to be built on time.”
Morin, who didn’t have a timeline for completion, expressed sympathy for the impacted businesses.
“Unfortunately, those are the drawbacks of construction projects, especially one of this scale. Those are unavoidable,” he said.
“We do feel for the businesses and we all kind of wish this project was done already.”
The city announced in August of 2016 it was beginning work on a new boat ramp near the Dockside restaurant, but said it would continue to operate the old Sarnia Bay boat launches until the new one was complete.
However, the old launches were pulled out this January to facilitate park reconstruction, a move that has angered anglers and recreational boaters who used the facility regularly.
Meanwhile, Bridgeview Marina has stepped into fill the breach. Owner Dave Brown is accommodating boaters during the Sarnia Salmon Derby by offering the marina’s upgraded boat launch and dock facilities, and working with marine operators to launch other boats until the municipal ramps are built.
“City staff are working closely with Bridgeview Marina to ensure open lines of communication and to respond to the needs of the boating community,” Morin said.
Vickery, for one, doubts the new municipal boat ramp in Sarnia Bay will be open by the June 2 deadline.
“When you don’t see anybody here on a daily basis, it’s hard to believe that that’s actually going to be finished in a month.”