Somehow the current state of maintenance at the berm and east harbour in Port Stanley
just isn't cutting it as a tourist attraction.
Now we all know the Municipality of Central Elgin is waiting for Transport Canada
to transform the berm area into parkland, as per the September 8, 2010 harbour divestiture
agreement, and that it is unlikely Transport Canada will even start that
process before 2017, but is that a justifiable excuse to let the area become a weed
overgrown, unsightly mess?
Tourism is the life-blood of Port Stanley's economy and our merchants have a very
short season in which to earn the vast majority of their annual revenues. The look
and feel of a place has a major impact on that community's ability to attract tourists.
This point was strongly driven home to me on my recent tour of ports and towns along
the lake shores of Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay.
When you drive down Port Stanley's Main Street and get to the most southerly end,
you are not greeted by a sight of amenable parkland or a nicely paved parking lot,
or even an area where the grass has been cut. No, the vista that our visitors behold
is an east harbour with cracked pavement and loose coal deposits, being used primarily
as a transport truck parking lot or stop over for motor homes. Tall weeds grow in
the coal field and the actual berm area has dense weeds taller than I am. Turn left
and follow the road to the Little Beach parking lot and you find a much-reduced-in-size
and deeply rutted sand parking lot with sand hills ploughed maybe 20 feet in height
to block the former vehicle access into the berm area. At the other end cement blocks
now prevent vehicle access. Weeds of every kind and description are allowed to grow
unchecked. The area looks worse now than it did when our late Mayor Sylvia Hofhuis
got the fertilizer tanks taken down.
I asked Mayor Bill Walters why the municipality did not at least keep the weeds/grasses
cut while waiting for Transport Canada to fulfill their commitment? He said he'd
ask Lloyd Perrin about it. When I heard nothing back, I asked Walters again after
the July 3rd, 2014 Council meeting and he said he'd forgotten to ask. I still have
received no answer.
Now the municipality has property standards by-laws that limit the height of weeds
and grasses to a maximum of 8 inches. Property owners are also required to destroy
all noxious weeds and I certainly spotted a number of weeds growing on the berm
that are listed in the province's list of 25 noxious weeds. Property owners in our
municipality are also required to remove dead, decayed or damaged trees or other
growth and their branches and limbs; ground cover, hedges and bushes which are unreasonably
overgrown; and injurious insects, termites, rodents, vermin and other pests. With
large pools and ruts of standing, stagnant water, the area is a mosquito breeding
ground, increasing the possibility of a resident or visitor to the area contracting
West Nile Virus.
But there's a little catch with the existing Property Standards by-laws and the
proposed new amalgamated Property Standards by-law - it does not apply
to publicly owned land; therefore the municipality does not have to abide by its
own Property Standards by-law(s). Not one of the municipalities I visited during
my recent travels along the lake shores of Lake Erie, Lake Huron and Georgian Bay
would have left a publicly owned waterfront area in the disgraceful shape that is
the current condition of our berm and east pier - and the remediation of the east
pier is Central Elgin's responsibility, not Transport Canada's.
In 2010 I donated 200 tulip tree seedlings I'd purchased from the KCCA to the municipality
to line the walkway planned for the berm. They've been growing in the municipality's
nursery ever since and Lloyd Perrin tells me they are doing well and they've only
lost two of them. Tulip trees lining that walkway would look striking each spring
and provide good shade in the summers. It will create a look Sylvia would have loved.
By the time the municipality and Transport Canada get around to actually creating
the parkland, these seedlings should be sizable young trees. In the meantime, would
keeping the weeds and grasses cut to within our property standards by-laws really
be such an onerous task? Can't we at least pretend we are trying to attract