South Bruce Peninsula council has authorized Canada”s Department of Fisheries and Oceans to go ahead with major town dock and launch ramp repairs. It also approved significant improvements to the Wiarton’s waterfront jewel, Bluewater Park. The estimated $800,000 worth of work will be completed by year’s end. Most of the costs will be covered by federal grants.
The town and the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans agreed to the breakwater/town pier and launch ramp repairs as the facilities were considered to be unstable. The dock/breakwater has been closed to foot traffic for two years. They were damaged by wave action resulting from record breaking high lake levels the waves “severely undermining the breakwall and ramp sides.”
It’s not all good news.
The downside is that the Bluewater Park launch ramp, which sees thousands of launches a year, will be closed during the estimated two months of repairs. The ramp shutdown, possibly starting in July, is expected to take place during the Chantry Chinook Classic Derby July 23rd to August 7th and the Owen Sound Salmon Spectacular August 26 to September 4. The Wiarton ramp experiences heavy use all summer and is especially busy during those derbies.
South Bruce Peninsula Director of public works Lara Widdifield reported to council, “the launch ramp will not be able to remain in service during the dock construction due to safety concerns based on its proximity to the breakwater….we must maintain safe separation between the public and the construction zone….it would be ideal to undertake the work in the fall minimizing the impact on boaters but there are conflicts reflecting the fall fish spawning season…the water near the dock is considered prime cold-water fish spawning habitat.”
The Public Works chief continued, “If the work were deferred to begin in September or October delays would jeopardize the funding for the project…the project must be completed by December 31st under the terms of the grant.”
Councillors responding to questions from a two person delegation from the 200-member Bruce Peninsula Sportsmen’s Association (BPSA) promised to hunt for alternate temporary launch locations during the ramp shutdown. BPSA members Kevin Harders and Mike Smith suggested allowing the ramps to remain open on weekends if construction halted at that time. Council pledged to try to “minimize the impact on boaters by possibly setting up a temporary launch location…or working with the Wiarton Marina or nearby Georgian Bluffs to create temporary ramps to handle the overflow from Wiarton.”
South Bruce Peninsula Mayor Janice Jackson said, “We will try to limit the impact on ramp users as much as possible … we know anglers and boaters spend big money here.” The Mayor continued, “We are thrilled that this Bluewater Park revitalization is going ahead including a new bandshell, the pier causeway repairs, washroom upgrades, and new interpretive plaques along the waterfront trail, new pathway lighting and a big illuminated Wiarton sign similar to the sign at Toronto’s City Hall. The infrastructure upgrades will allow for increased tourism which leads to increased visitor spending.”
She concluded, “With the temporary ramp shutdown and other repairs, it appears it will be short term pain for long term gain.”