Brave New Water
By DAVID YOUNG
Saint John's waterfront should host a web of walking trails, lookouts and parks winding around the existing port facilities all the way from the Irving Nature Park to Red Head, a new report on the waterfront suggests.
And the port should make room for more urban development in the Uptown area while protecting its room for expansion on the West Side, the planners conclude.
The Saint John Waterfront Strategic Plan, released today, calls for more than 70 improvements or changes to the city's port and waterfront land.
If adopted, the plan could keep local officials busy over the next five to 10 years. Of the 70 recommendations, 48 should be completed by 2005, according to consultant Lee Parsons of the Ontario-based firm of Malone Given Parsons Ltd.
The report 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.
Mr. Parson has helped craft waterfront plans in Toronto, Kingston, Niagara and Gros Morne National Park in Western Newfoundland.
A central feature of the report is the Waterfront Linkages and Open Space Plan, which would "integrate the area's natural scenic features and celebrate the area's cultural heritage at a series of destination places on the waterfront. "
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.
That would let "local residents and visitors to explore the natural and cultural roots of Saint John with emphasis on the city, its working harbour and settlement evolution, as well as the marine history and ecology of the Bay of Fundy. "
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.
"Both Fort Dufferin and Partridge Island are exceptional civic assets and should be made accessible to the public," Mr. Parsons says.
As well, he wants the city to buy the Fort Dufferin property and turn the area into a park, and suggests a facelift for the Bay Ferries building which welcomes passengers bound to and from Digby, N.S.
"At present, the ferry terminal is not a visually strong or positive gateway to Saint John, " the report notes.
If the plan is implemented, the greatest change and development would come along the waterfront -of the city's central peninsula, running from Fort LaTour to the armories.
"Aside from Market Square, Pugsley Park and Fort LaTour (which is almost inaccessible), there is very little public access to the central waterfront - but there is a clear desire to substantially improve this situation."
The port lands in this part of the waterfront are "under-utilized" and will be needed for redevelopment and expansion of the Uptown area, Mr. Parsons concludes. At the same time, these properties are also subject to the greatest pressure from the surrounding area.
"At some point, major additions to the office supply will be necessary yet the site opportunities in the Uptown area are very limited. "
Mr. Parsons goes on to state that the city risks losing new government or business developments without a major new site for an office building near the waterfront.
For example, he says Long Wharf should ultimately be redeveloped for office, hotel and residential uses, and the wharf itself should developed into a marina and connected to a park at Fort LaTour.
As for the Pugsley terminals, Mr. Parsons suggests that they be developed into a cruise-ship reception area as well as host commercial and retail development.
He has plans for the Coast Guard facility too. Mr. Parsons suggests that if the Coast Guard does not need all of Kings Wharf, it could be shared with the proposed Bay of Fundy Discovery Centre or the long dreamed-of Marco Polo exhibit.
The Coast Guard operations should definitely stay in Saint John but could be consolidated on the West Side, he points out. The existing site could be used as a tie-up for visiting recreational boats and other public uses.
"It is not recommended that this site be used for large-scale commercial uses in the short or long term," Mr. Parsons stresses in his report.
While the report carves out more space for commercial development in the Uptown, it also recommends that, on the West Side, the port facilities be protected, strengthened and improved.
"A priority for expanding the Port in the future is Pier 13 and 14 areas," Mr. Parsons suggests, adding that these areas will need to be redeveloped to allow for sheds and bulk storage areas.
To the east, along Courtenay Bay and out towards Red Head, the report recommends that the existing industrial uses be protected but that public access to the area be improved through things such as a public walkway along the Courtenay Bay breakwater and one along the Courtenay Bay marsh.
Included in this idea is the need to clean up the creosote-tainted Marsh Creek and remove raw sewage from the municipal discharges there.
Beyond Courtenay Bay, Mr. Parsons envisions a walking and bicycle trail along the Red Head coast.
The article below was published in the Times Globe Newspaper, Thursday, September 9/99