When it’s a lovely sunny day in August Krissy Filby likes to take her kids to the mouth of the Black River, where they can jump off the blue bridge, explore the nearby beach, and, after climbing through a hole cut in the chain-link fence, fish off the old Mossington wharf.
“We used to walk here as kids and jump off the bridge,” says Ms. Filby, 40, who lives in Keswick, but grew up a few steps away near Jackson’s Point. “So now I have my two young kids, they’re 13 and 11, and they come here too.”
“It’s a nice change from going to the busy beaches, like De La Salle and Willow Beach,” she adds. “It’s not quite as busy here because there’s no parking, but it’s a beautiful spot. And there’s lots to do here — it’s not just swimming. The kids can fish, and it’s a nice spot to picnic and hang out.”
While Ms. Filby appreciates the river bank’s natural beauty, she’d like to see the Town make some improvements to the area, including fixing-up the wharf, adding public parking and improving the access to the beach.
“We have nothing like this in Keswick,” says Ms. Filby. “We have pretty much one usable beach, and there’s not a lot of beach space. So it would be nice to be able to come over here by boat and spend the day.”
While it’s easy to see the potential of this beautiful spot, it’s future as an impromptu public park is an open question.
The Town will soon erect a more substantial security fence around the wharf, install warning signs, and increase the frequency of by-law officers monitoring the site.
It is also investigating a proposal to strip the wharf of its wood decking, and make into a permanent breakwall — thereby reducing the risk of liability, but preventing the wharf from ever being used for mooring boats or fishing for that matter.
In short, there will be no more fun to be had at the mouth of the Black River.
This all comes out of a recent council session on August 14th, where councillors were faced with a dilemma: What do to with a derelict wharf that seemed to have so much promise just a few years ago, but now seems like more of a liability?
At that session, Lawrence Artin, the town’s head of capital projects, and engineers from Colliers Project Leaders, the consultants hired to review the various repair options for the wharf, delivered the bad news.
Despite two separate tenders to repair the wharf and dredge the river to allow greater boat traffic, the Town had received zero bids from contractors – in short, no-one wanted the job.
And there was more bad news. The Colliers’ report recommends repairs to the wharf that could cost more than $1.2 million — substantially exceeding the Federal grant of $777,000 the Town received for the rehabilitation of the wharf in 2018.
Also, dredging the Black River could cost more than $550,000, and would have to be repeated every two years due to high sediment levels.
Faced with no bids on the work, and substantial costs, the Town advised the council to defer a decision on the project and considered it within the broader context of the Town’s waterfront strategy.
Mr. Artin argued that the project would stand a better chance of attracting a contractor’s bid if it was included in a larger project with a broader scope.
Andrew Wall, the head engineer from Colliers, was a little blunter in his assessment, stressing that it was in the Town’s best interest to carefully weigh any investment in the wharf against the needs of its other waterfront assets.
“Dollars are very precious and putting them to the most needed assets is critical,” said Mr. Wall, “So when you’re looking at this structure, we need to look at not just what it’s going to cost right now, but the annual maintenance cost that’s going to have to go into it, as well as the replacement costs in 10, 15, or 20 years from now when it would need to be completely replaced again.”
In the end, the council voted to approve that Town’s recommendations, however, it was careful to include the project in phase 1 of the Waterfront Parks Master Plan, as the Federal grant must be spent on the wharf before 2023, or the Town has to return the money.
For Ms. Filby and her kids, there are still a few summer days left to enjoy swimming, fishing and hanging out at the mouth of the Black River, but the same can’t be said for the old Mossington wharf – it’s time may be drawing to a close.
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