A century ago horse-drawn wagons plodded along the wooden wharf at the foot of Burlington’s Brant Street, hauling boxes of fruit and vegetables to be loaded onto boats for export. Agriculture was the backbone of the local economy.[divider]
The sweet aroma of ketchup wafted around town from the Burlington Canning Company plant, where the Waterfront Hotel now is located, and Tommy Thompson sat on the Lakeshore Road side of the plant, in a huge replica of a tomato juice can, selling samples at five cents a glass. Now the City fathers’ focus is on imports – as in tourists – they hope will arrive in a hurry to visit the brand new pedestrian pier, which juts out into Lake Ontario 450 feet in the form of an ‘S’. They’re expecting it to give Burlington’s downtown area an economic boost.
The pier was officially opened on June 14 with Mayor Rick Goldring and Burlington MP Mike Wallace officiating. Seven children, whose hand-prints had been cut into the steel and indented into the concrete around the “Lasting Impressions” display, also were there. The following day the Burlington Teen Tour Band marched on and off the pier to give it a christening. “Burlington’s waterfront is one of our most important assets, attracting hundreds of thousands of visitors each year,” the mayor said. “This is truly a project of which we can all be proud.” The longest curved pier on the Great Lakes includes a beacon lookout tower, which is illuminated at night, and benches where the elderly, especially, can sit and enjoy the breezes. Plans for the pier were first drawn up in 2003, but construction did not begin until the fall 2006. In August of 2008, a crane toppled over just after problems with a concrete pour in July of that year had been discovered. Then in the summer of 2009, there were more problems with the quality of steel in the structure.
Meanwhile the cost of the pier kept mounting and now is estimated at $14.4 million. Although the pier has been open for less than a month, some of the metal benches have already been damaged by skateboarders. Bicycles and roller blades are allowed on the pier, but the City is issuing a warning that skateboarding is prohibited. Fishing is permitted, as long as the anglers are considerate of others. However, diving and swimming is forbidden. At one time there were plans to have 44 day-slips for boats, as well as a commercial dock to accommodate tour boats. But they were scrapped for budgetary reasons. Over the last four years, a half-dozen lawsuits have been launched because of the delays in construction. The City of Burlington is named as a defendant in two of them, initiated by the original contractor Harm Schilthuis and Sons Ltd., and if the City loses, it could mean higher taxes. Mr. Justice Fitzpatrick of the Ontario Superior Court has ruled on which order the suits will be heard. Examinations for discovery should be completed by the fall.
However, it likely will be May or June of 2014 before trial dates are set. The City also is suing Schilthuis, Aecom Canada the designers and three different insurance companies. And finally Schilthuis is suing Craneway Equipment and two insurance companies. City manager Jeff Fielding said taxpayers will not be forgotten in the process. “We have promised openness and disclosure to the full amount possible to the people of Burlington,” he said. Today’s recreational waterfront in Burlington is a far cry from the commercial hub that it was a century ago.Steamboats once traveled from Hamilton to Kingston, making stops at Burlington and Toronto to pick up passengers. Helen Langford, a former columnist for The Burlington Gazette, reported the boats would leave from different wharves in the steel city, then race each other to the Burlington Canal to see which one would be the first to pick up passengers and freight in Burlington. Built in 1903, the Burlington Canning Company later became Canadian Canners, also producing Aylmer- brand soup and tomato juice. But the plant was torn down for development in the 1960s. The Burlington Canning Company was formed by a group of farmers and landowners. Its finished products were exported to the British Isles, Australia, Malta, Germany, France, British Honduras and the West Indies.
Article by Dennis Gibbons