Troy Shantz & George Mathewson
Sarnia residents want to see their waterfront better integrated with the downtown and opened up to cafes, beer gardens and other attractions.
So says the consultant hired to help create a master plan for the public lands facing the St. Clair River between Sarnia Bay and Rainbow Park
“We heard quite a bit about the public wanting to take a drink, have a coffee, have a glass of wine or having something to eat,” Paul Hicks of Re:Public Urbanism said during a council update Monday.
“(They’re) wanting something to do when they’re at the waterfront.”
About 1,600 residents offered comments online and 200 more attended a pop-up consultation held, fittingly, on the waterfront earlier this month.
“That’s an exceptional response rate,” Hicks said.
In general, residents said they love the views of the water and ships, want to preserve public access, often arrive by foot or bicycle as well as car, spend little at downtown businesses when they do visit, and seldom go to the waterfront in the winter.
In addition to cafes and bars, Sarnians said they would like to see more to do with both active and passive programming, investment in the quality of spaces and infrastructure, and more connections linking the commercial zone to the water.
“The public was very clear in wanting to see better integration between the waterfront and the downtown itself,” said Hicks, whose company has done planning projects for Kingston, Cornwall and Strathroy.
More interviews are planned with key stakeholders, including local businesses, the Andrew S. Brandt at Sarnia Bay Marina and the St. Clair Regional Conservation Authority.
Developing a waterfront master plan is a five-step process expected to wrap by November, and short-term objectives could be considered in next year’s budget, said CAO Chris Carter.
Meanwhile, council also unanimously approved a proposal from Mayor Mike Bradley to expand the public lands review to include the Lake Huron waterfront as well.
That plan would cover Canatara Park, Bright’s Grove, and the municipal right-of-ways beaches at the end of major roads.
It could be considered during budget deliberations this fall.