Stephane Fraser at Willow Beach Park

By Mike Anderson

The Town is moving forward with its ambitious Waterfront Parks Master Plan, and it’s seeking public input on its updated design concepts before they are presented at a final community information session to be held on September 8.

In-person public info sessions for Willow Beach and De La Salle were held at the parks on August 21.

Stephanie Fraser, a landscape architectural planner for the Town and one of the project leads, was on hand to answer questions from residents.

“We’re doing three days of in-person pop-up sessions,” Fraser said.

“We’ve done two previous virtual sessions with the community. So this is our third and final round of public input.”

Fraser says while the updated concepts are close to being final, they can still be modified, depending on the feedback provided during the in-person sessions.

“The final final would be presented to council in October. So there is still time to modify them,” she said.

Fraser encourages residents who can’t attend the in-person sessions to complete an online survey, which is available on the Town’s website but ends on September 3.

According to Fraser, the updated design concept for De La Salle Park has removed the proposed realignment of Lake Dr. E., which would have cut through the west side of the park to link up with Metro Rd. N., that area will be now be used exclusively for parking.

Instead, traffic on Lake Dr. E. will be diverted at Salvation Army Rd.

“We have decided at the staff level and consultant level that we don’t see the point of building a whole new road through the park and taking up some of that space for the few people that want that continuous route,” Fraser said.

“We will rebuild that intersection to direct traffic along Salvation Army Rd. The portion of Lake Dr. E. between Salvation Army Rd. and the park will act more as a park entrance and access for residents.”

On the east side, the Town will no longer use Brule Lakeway to divert traffic from Lake Dr. E., opting to build a parallel road through the former Jericho Youth Centre property, linking Lake Dr. E. with Metro Rd. N.

“Where Lake Drive was will be a pedestrian cycle path. So pedestrians and cyclists will still have that through route along the lake. It’s just vehicles that won’t, and it also allows more opportunity for potentially widening the beach,” Fraser said.

De La Salle Park concept
Willow Beach Park concept

At Willow Beach, traffic on Lake Dr. E. will also be redirected around the park, providing visitors with direct access to the lake and allowing the Town to nearly double the width of the beach.

“We’ve created two new roads that will connect to Metro Rd. N.,” Fraser said. “Currently, McNeil Rd. goes through, so we’ve moved that connection to Joel Ave. And then we have another connection at Jacksonville Rd.”

Fraser says a new pedestrian and cycling promenade will replace the existing section of Lake Dr. E. that runs through the park.

According to Fraser, Willow Beach will also get new washrooms, an expanded play area, and fitness stations. Grading will also be improved in the park, and new walkways added.

While most residents who attended the info sessions were generally supportive of the concepts, some expressed concerns.

John Noble, who lives on Lake Drive, says the Town should expect some pushback on its plan to divert traffic around the parks.

“You’re going to get some people that are not going to be happy. They’re used to driving down Lake Drive, because they’ve been doing it since the sixties. And a lot of car guys drive their cars to see the lake. This is the only section along Lake Drive that you can do it,” Noble said.

However, he acknowledged that more visitors are coming to the parks and changes need to be made.

“Willow Beach is the same as it’s been since the sixties, nothing’s been changed,” he said.

“There are no sidewalks and it’s kind of risky for the kids. People are walking on both sides and it’s even too narrow for two cars.”

Andrew Adams, a member of the Georgina Waterways Advisory Committee attended the info session at Willow Beach.

He believes the concepts, if implemented, will make the waterfront more appealing and accessible for residents and visitors. But he wonders if there is funding available to get them built.

“I don’t know if there’s the political will or the funds to be honest with you. But what I will say is that if we get this done soon, 20 years later, people will look back on it and say, wow, that was money well spent,” Adams said.

Adams also believes there has been adequate public input, and it’s time to move forward with the project.

“It’s been discussed for quite a while. So, I would say that we’re getting a lot of good input, but at some point you have to move ahead. And so, hopefully, we’re getting close to where we can put it into gear and get shovels in the ground.”

On August 28, the Town will hold similar in-person info sessions for Jackson’s Point Harbour (11 a.m. to 1 p.m.) and Holmes Point Park (2 p.m. to 4 p.m.) An additional session for De La Salle Park (5.30 p.m. to 8 p.m.) is scheduled for September 1. All in-person sessions will be held in the respective parks.

The final community info sessions will be held virtually on September 8, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 6.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. Residents must register on the Town’s website to attend one of the two sessions (the content will be the same for each).

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