Turning the beach into the true focal point of the Iroquois waterfront is the main attraction of the Iroquois waterfront plan, which was presented to the community Monday, April 15, at the Iroquois Civic Centre.
A crowd of about 60 people gathered to view the effort of the The Iroquois Waterfront Committee, which spent two years researching and consulting the public to define a vision of the Iroquois waterfront reflective of the community’s wants and needs.
Judging from the reaction of those on hand, their diligence paid off, as they were able to deliver a plan that brought only positive response from the audience.
The committee based the plan presented directly on the results of a survey distributed to Iroquois residents.
That survey showed that residents strongly supported enlarging the beach and strongly supported the waterfront being used for recreational purposes. It also showed strong opposition to any, even limited, residential use of waterfront lands.
“The response was gratifying,” said Howard Kirkby, committee chair.
“This plan is reflective of the community’s wishes.”
The response rate to the surveys was about 10 to 12 per cent, according to committee member Jim Wilson, saying that was a very good response rate.
The vision presented, with the help of landscape architect Wendy Graham, suggests finding a way to pay homage to the few remaining historical markers from pre-Seaway days, but the thrust of the plan is focussed on two things: the recreational pathway system and the beach.
The plans propose making the sand area of the beach much larger and suggest moving the parking lot further away from the sand area to allow for more recreational opportunity.
Graham suggested that the pathway system, rather than ending in the beach parking lot, should pass between the beach and the parking lot, and travel onward, potentially linking to the regional trail system which already exists, but currently passes through Iroquois along County Road 2.
The plan also suggests completing the pathway system and filling in any existing missing links, to make it more attractive, accessible and user friendly.
Another suggestion in the plan is to move the tourist information booth location more towards the waterfront, away from the plaza.
They have suggested the Forward House, which is ideally located on the way to the Seaway locks, the town’s main tourist attraction, and at the edge of the waterfront park, become the new tourist information centre.
“We understand that we have to do this one step at a time, but we have to take control. We can’t wait. There are many ways to make our waterfront more significant and the more people who see what we have, the more clout we will have to get things done,” said Kirkby.
“We want to take back our waterfront from history. We want it to be vital. We want to make Iroquois whole again,” said Wilson.
When it was pointed out that there was a generation missing from the audience, namely parents with young children, who will most likely see the benefit of the proposed improvements, the committee agreed that there is a need to find a way to tap into that generation and get them involved.
“Yes, we should focus on getting parents with young kids involved, and to tell them that we need their input and to get them contributing,” said Kirkby.
“Young families in Morrisburg saw a need and they went out and did something about it. We need more involvement from everyone. The only way to make improvements is to get involved.”
Wilson pointed out that this community supports a huge soccer program and that is proof that there is no lack of interest in recreation in this community.
“We need to tap into that. Making our beach a recreational gem has the potential to do that,” he said. “This committee intends to continue. This isn’t the end. We have defined a vision, and now this is the beginning. It is a vision that we want to see realized and it is our responsibility to try and realize it with the help of the community and political leaders of all levels.