Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick

New Waterfront Waves
A proposed complex includes shops and ecological displays,
and the Marco Polo group wants $600,000 from council

By Sandra Davis
Times Globe staff writer

    A task force looking at Saint John's waterfront has been shown a model of the proposed Bay of Fundy Discovery Centre that includes a display of the bay's ecosystem and a seamless walkway flowing from Fort LaTour all the way to the armories.

    Task force member Councillor Walter Ball was buoyed by yesterday's meeting with consultant Lee Parsons of the Ontario firm Malone Given Parsons Ltd.

    Mr. Parsons's report, the Saint John Waterfront Strategic Plan, was released last month and calls for more than 70 changes to the city's port and waterfront land.

    "The Marco Polo thing is looming down there as well," Mr. Ball said, "and you want to make this thing all work.

    "I think the way things have been going the last couple of days, we'll have something going. It looks good."

    Mr. Ball said the Bay of Fundy Discovery Centre model is difficult to describe, but in a nutshell, it would be linked with cruise ship traffic in the Pugsley Wharf area and would include an open area for passengers to wander through, shops, possibly a restaurant and ecological displays.

    Bill Grant, chairman of the Saint John Port Corporation, refused a Times Globe request to photograph or examine the model. He said it was too soon to make the details public, adding that there were other proposals in the works as well and "it would be too confusing" to expose people to more than one.

    Meanwhile, backers of the Marco Polo project, including businessman Dick Oland, met with Common Council behind closed doors on Monday night to discuss plans to build a land-based replica of the Saint John sailing ship from the mid-1800s.

    Mayor Shirley McAlary said the issue was discussed for about 31/2 hours, but she did not want to talk about details of the meeting. She did say that council was told that the project will cost in the range of $1.8-million, and confirmed that the group was looking for $600,000 from the city to help defray costs.

    Any decision on funding for the Marco Polo project would have to be made during an open session of council, the mayor said.

   The Marco Polo group is also looking for money from the federal government's Canada Millennium Partnership Program, which announced its latest round of funding on Monday.

    Several area projects were promised cash including a 1.5-kilometre Canada-theme walking trail through Rockwood Park ($314,982), a display of extinct animals at the Cherry Brook Zoo ($70,833) and a project to fix up a historical crossroads on the Kingston Peninsula ($79,764).

    More projects will get the green light throughout 2000.

    The Parsons report on waterfront development was commissioned last fall by the Saint John Development Corporation in conjunction with Uptown Saint John, the Saint John Port Corporation, the city and the province. It was developed after a series of public consultations and meetings with port users.

    The idea is to create a series of parks, lookouts and interpretation spots linked by walking trails. Existing parks would be expanded and new stopping places created at a variety of spots such as Fort Dufferin, Ferry Beach, Reversing Falls, Round Reef and Courtenay Bay.

    One significant feature of the trail plan would see a new walking path built along the breakwater to Partridge Island, the former immigrant quarantine centre and lighthouse station in the mouth of the harbour.

The article below was published in the Times Globe, Monday, October 27/99