The Town of Fort Erie is anxiously awaiting the grand reopening of the new Bay Beach with celebrations beginning at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, May 26, 2019. The $3.1 million project is a culmination of funding from many project partners and input from the community on the unique public space design.
“This is an exciting day for the entire community”, stated Mayor Redekop. “By working together with many key stakeholders, we have re-energized this beautiful waterfront. This will be a year of many firsts, a year of experimentation and we will continue building on the visitor experience to make sure that our thousand feet of pristine white sand beach is enjoyed by all, is a catalyst for the area and sets a standard for all of our waterfront properties”.
The 2 acre beach park features include accessible washroom facilities complete with lockers and change rooms, a foot wash station, a bottle refill station, a pavilion and festival square, a terrace overlooking Lake Erie, an accessible playground and shade pergola, picnic areas, a ramp to the beach and accessible beach mats, free WiFi, and protected sand dunes and Fowlers toad habitat. The barrier free washroom also includes an adult-sized change table. The park, designed by the Planning Partnership, in partnership with Baird + Associates, TCI Management Consultants, LCA Environmental, Parsons and TCA was constructed by Stevensville Lawn Service.
The Town was successful in its funding application to the Region of Niagara, through its Waterfront Investment Program, which allowed the Town to accelerate the project. “The Town’s vision for this unique space was dubbed a ‘gold star project’ when Regional staff reviewed applications in 2016”, said Regional Chair, Jim Bradley. “The program considers projects that contribute to regional economic prosperity and enhance public experience of waterfront, two of its key objectives. The Niagara Region’s contribution of $850,000 will have a lasting impact on Fort Erie’s waterfront for generations to come”.
The project also included a number of other important partnerships, such as the fundraising undertaken by the Ridgeway Lions Club. Lion Casey Bruyn stated, “For the past 90 years The Ridgeway Lions have tried to live up to the Lions motto ‘We Serve’. We selected the Bay Beach playground as our major service project to raise $85,000 to support the Town’s redevelopment of Bay Beach. The public, local businesses, organizations and many people from across Canada and the United States with an attachment to the Beach generously donated funds at our dinners, events, bingos and through our engraved paver campaign. Once again our community came together to create a legacy that reached beyond our initial
goal and allowed us to purchase additional equipment and park benches”.
Raising almost $110,000 for park playground equipment, the Club co-hosted a public open house, asking children what they wanted to see in a new play space using ‘dotmocracy’. The Club also consulted with the Town’s Accessibility Advisory Committee to ensure that the features were accessible. The final playground design, by Open Space Solutions, is a
compilation of the favourites chosen by the children, including a giant whale tail climber, a giant spinner, a swing set, climbers, slides, teeter totters and numerous ground level features. Fundraising by the Club included an engraved paver campaign, the results of which can be found on the pathway at the west entrance to the playground. A ‘Buddy Bench’ was
also donated by Open Space Solutions.
“I am very pleased that the Town of Fort Erie has successfully partnered with the federal government’s Enabling Accessibility Fund to obtain approximately $17,000.00 of funding to assist with the purchase of over 400 feet of accessible Mobi beach mats, which will provide a stable surface from the beach access ramp to the water’s edge, providing universal access
for those visiting the beautiful waterfront park”, stated Niagara Falls MP Rob Nicholson.
Niagara M.P.P. Wayne Gates added “I had the opportunity to see the beach last weekend while I was down in Crystal Beach—it is absolutely gorgeous. I am thrilled to be a part of the Grand Opening and I hope we have a really successful summer at Bay Beach.”
Those cycling to the beach will have some unique bike racks to use. The racks were designed and constructed by the students at Greater Fort Erie Secondary School and reflect 10 unique water and beach themed designs. Fleet Canada Inc. generously donated the aluminum for the bike racks.
Strolling to the new Bay Beach is also easier, thanks to the donation of land by the Crystal Beach Hill Cottagers, which allowed the construction of the south sidewalk on Erie Road.
The donation by the Friends of Crystal Beach of 3 large Red Oak trees and 3 large Maple trees will provide future shade and they have also very graciously donated two park benches.
In early May, Albert Garofalo and the Bert Miller Nature Club coordinated the planting of 1,000 dune grasses by fifty students from Saint Frances Catholic Secondary School, Notre Dame College School and Lakeshore Catholic High School. The locally harvested native dune grasses will serve to restore the sand dunes, protect the beach, stop the movement of sand across the park and create habitat for the endangered Fowlers Toad. Interpretive signage will also help educate visitors on the ecological importance of sand dunes.
Long-term Ward 5 Councillor, Don Lubberts, commented “This project has come full circle and is something that 97% of the residents involved in the public consultation wanted to see happen here. By providing public open space to the waterfront with such dynamic features, I am certain that this will be just the start of even more great things happening in Crystal Beach”.
The park offers free WiFi to park patrons and is also well equipped with security cameras. One camera will live stream beach and weather conditions (accessible through the Town’s website), while other cameras will record day and night time park activity.
The Park opening celebrations will include a number of family fun activities beginning with the first annual sand castle competition. Professional sand castle builders Sandi Stirling, Dale Andrews and Sharon Nesbittt will be competing for the first place prize of $500.00 sponsored
by Marz Homes. Teams, families or individuals are invited to create their own sand masterpieces with the top prize of $100.00 sponsored by South Coast Cookhouse. Sand castle building starts at 9 a.m. (pros start at 7 a.m.) with sign up on the beach. Judging starts at 2:30 p.m. sharp and the winners will be announced at 3:00 p.m. DJ Doug will be spinning tunes all day, while Niagara Face Painters, professional balloon makers and magician Scoop
McCoy will be entertaining visitors. The fun starts at 11 a.m. and wraps up at 4:00 p.m. The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and speeches begin at noon. Tim Hortons will be on site offering free coffee and ice drinks and water bottles can be filled at the Niagara Water Wagon. Food trucks will be on site during the celebration, offering a variety of tasty choices and fantastic local restaurants are also available within walking distance of the Beach.
While the opening day celebrations are free for visitors, there will be an admission fee to access the beach between Victoria Day through Labour Day between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. All of the other features of the park (washroom, pavilion, festival square and playground) are free to enjoy. Seasonal beach
passes for Fort Erie residents, with appropriate identification, can be purchased at Fort Erie Town Hall during business hours ($10.00 per resident, children under 10 are free).
All other visitors and residents without a season pass can purchase a day pass for $5.00 per person at the beach.
Paid parking is available at the municipal parking lot at Erie Road and Eastwood Avenue between May 1 and September 30. The parking fee is $4.00 per hour, or a flat rate of $15.00 per car between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Parking is not permitted from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Metered parking is also available on streets surrounding the park and will be enforced between Victoria Day and Labour Day. The rate of meter parking is $2 per hour or a flat fee of $10 for the day from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
For further information, please visit us on the web at www.forterie.ca.