By: Mike Anderson
Despite being branded a “NIMBY” and told to get off his “high-horse,” Paul Brady remains undeterred in his efforts to save Bonnie and Lorne Park, also know as Jackson’s Point Park, from the developer’s shovel.
After all, Mr. Brady’s roots run deep in Jackson’s Point. His mother’s family settled here in 1849, and his father’s side in 1870.
He also spent many childhood summers swimming at Bonnie Beach and recently, with his wife Kim, made the Point his home, renovating one of the old boathouses facing the harbour.
Mr. Brady is passionate about the waterfront and can’t understand why this “jewel” has been neglected for so many years.
“If this was in Richmond Hill or Markham it would be treated as gold. The beach would be groomed daily and the docks would be kept up, ” he says.
But what worries Mr. Brady most is the possibility that the waterfront may be changed forever by “ill-advised” development, cutting off public access to the lake and the vistas that he says are some of the best in the Canada.
In 2017, the Bradys and other concerned residents successfully opposed a proposal made by The Planning Partnership — a consulting firm hired by the town — to swap Bonnie and Lorne Park for marina lands owned by MSR Holdings, now known as DMCC Holdings.
This land swap would have allowed the developer to build a 65-unit condominium or hotel on the park lands.
While Georgina Council eventually rejected the proposal, Mr. Brady says a development deal that could include the park lands is still on the table.
“Most of the people who use the park don’t even know this discussion is going on. The town has been able to keep it off the radar,” he says.
But Mr. Brady is determined to play the spoiler; his latest gambit is to seek a heritage designation for both Bonnie and Lorne Park.
He argues the harbour and its surrounding waterfront parks have played a significant role in the historical and cultural development of Jackson’s Point and deserve to be preserved for future generations.
He also hopes a heritage designation will force the town to seek public input before brokering any development deal.
But so far the town isn’t playing ball. The town’s Heritage Committee has twice deferred a vote on the heritage designation.
Ward 4 Councillor Frank Sebo, who sits on the Heritage Committee, appears dead-set against the idea.
According to Mr. Sebo, a heritage designation would hand-cuff the town’s redevelopment plans; in particular, any proposal to build a public boat launch at Bonnie Park.
While Mr Brady argues a boat launch would destroy the beach and restrict public access to the lake, he says he’ll support the plan — if that’s what the public wants.
“The public needs to be part of the process. It can’t be done behind closed doors,” he says. “If we get a heritage designation, then it gives us a sober second thought. It can always be repealed. So, I don’t understand the resistance to it.”
Meanwhile, the town will review the redevelopment of Jackson’s Point Harbour in phase one of the upcoming Waterfront Parks Master Plan.
But it could be a case of deja vu, as the town has re-hired The Planning Partnership to come up with its waterfront strategy.
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