OPINION: Our priceless waterfront needs a comprehensive vision

Steve Loxton & Mark Andrews

For decades, Sarnia councils have neglected, ignored, or short-changed shoreline protection along one of our community’s most priceless public assets; the right-of-way on old Lakeshore Road in Bright’s Grove.

Now, record high lake levels are teaching us expensive lessons about the high costs of neglect.

Recently, new funding was finally approved to address these long-standing shoreline protection deficiencies. It is encouraging to see the city now acting more proactively to tackle our gravely threatened shoreline.

But, now that the immediate task of repairing the shoreline is underway, we feel the time has come for Sarnia to establish a long-term plan and legacy vision for our irreplaceable Bright’s Grove public waterfront.

We believe the entire stretch of publicly owned waterfront – consisting of the old Lakeshore Road right-of-way, from Telfer Road to Perch/Cow Creek, should be preserved, protected and developed with a multi-use trail, new beaches and other amenities (like a restored Cull Drain Bridge) for the benefit of our community and for future generations, forever!

In addition to shoreline repairs, two long-standing issues must be addressed to make this vision a reality: return of the Cull Drain Bridge and re-establishing public access to the “lost” Old Lakeshore Road right-of-way, between the Cull Drain and Mike Weir Park.

Both issues seem to have become interlinked in such a way that solutions for one are dependent on solutions for the other. This seeming “Catch-22,” as well as the challenges and costs inherent at both locations, increase the risk that the required solutions will be delayed until funds and/or political will have been exhausted.

This could result in the tragic loss of this public right-of-way and the severing of one the longest uninterrupted lakeside public waterfront trails in Ontario.

Thanks to the efforts of the Friends of Cull Drain Bridge, local trades and the city, there is now an initiative to begin restoration work on the bridge in Mike Weir Park, hopefully by the summer of 2020.

But, the right-of-way remains in limbo, despite council resolutions going back to 2006 to reassert public ownership and access.

We know from several rounds of public consultation that our community overwhelmingly desires to see the bridge returned and public access to the right-of-way restored.

We believe a comprehensive Bright’s Grove waterfront strategy could save money, time, and conserve scarce resources.

Including the right-of-way and bridge in that comprehensive plan and vision would increase the likelihood of overall success, and of achieving a practical, sustainable and more economically viable plan, acceptable to all stakeholders and the community.

If you want to save your lakeshore, visit and sign the petition at: https://www.change.org/Save_Our_Entire_Old_Lakeshore_Road_Right-of-Way

 

Steve Loxton
Mark Andrews

Friends of Cull Drain Bridge 

Save the Old Lakeshore Right-Of-Way