In this year, the 60th anniversary of Burlington’s incorporation as a town, it’s worth recalling other significant events in 1958 that had a major impact in life along the lakeshore.
Besides becoming the largest town in Canada when it annexed most of Nelson Township and Aldershot, formerly a part of East Flamborough Township, Burlingtonians had other reasons to celebrate.
The first steel span of the Skyway Bridge was opened as a toll bridge that year and Governor General Vincent Massey visited Burlington to officially open the Royal Botanical Gardens headquarters buildings on June 25.
Furthermore, the town created headlines worldwide when The Toronto Star reported the Burlington Chamber of Commerce had sent a cablegram to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in the Kremlin, asking him to consider holding a summit with U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower right in Burlington, presumably at the new RBG building.
Later it was discovered the cablegram was a prank, evidently sent by a couple of citizens who were “in their cups”.
“Neither I, as President, nor any other member of the Chamber authorized it,” C.W. Biggs told The Star. “We know two drunks sent it in the Chamber’s name.”
Biggs went on to say the Chamber in no way was going to fork out the cash to pay for it.
The summer of 1958 also was the beginning of the end of what was Burlington’s major sporting event.
Burlington once hosted a giant swim regatta at the waterfront that attracted as many as 4,000 spectators. But attendance declined and the event ceased to exist after the Halton County Health Unit declared the water inside what was then a breakwater in front of Spencer Smith Park unfit for swimming.
As a result, races had to be held outside the breakwater and only spectators with binoculars were able to see what was going on.
There were other considerations. On Canada Day weekend of 1958 the lake water was a frigid 49 degrees Fahrenheit.
Of note, two daughters of Winnie Roach Leuszler, the first Canadian to swim the English Channel, competed in the regatta. Leuszler also attempted to cross Lake Ontario with Marilyn Bell in her famous swim to Toronto’s CNE grounds in 1954, but had to come out of the water because of problems with her guide boat.
Also in 1958 the Burlington and Suburban Planning Board prepared a scale model of an esplanade at the waterfront that included an amphitheatre overlooking the lake and involved creating a concrete seating area and bandshell near the cenotaph.
The plan also called for extending the park southward by filling in all the water area inside the breakwall and installing an open air swimming pool. The pool was to be fed by filtered water from Lake Ontario.
However, although it was presented to council the plan didn’t go anywhere.
Fast forward to today where the Burlington Beach Regional Waterfront Park Master Plan now is finally being implemented.
Several improvements have been made to Spencer Smith Park over the last two years. They include asphalt surfacing on the promenade, new shade structures at the cobble beach, concrete surfacing at seating areas and new benches, renewal of the short concrete wall (parapet wall) between the upper and lower promenade, and railings along the west concrete wall
In the spring of 2017 the gazebo was upgraded.
Along the beach strip itself, a fire pit, fed by gas, is yet to be built, as well as a native interpretative centre and a shoreline boardwalk.
Volleyball courts, a storm water pond, bocci ball courts and outdoor pavilions useful for markets or art sales also are in the works.
The portion of Lakeshore Road, which runs adjacent to Beachway Park will be widened to three lanes and include a lane for bicyles.
With Burlington experiencing mostly dry, hot weather in July, the water quality of the lake has been okayed for swimming.
That can change, however, if heavy rains sweep goose droppings and other debris into the lake.
Swimmers should check the Region of Halton website for daily reports.