Burlington city council’s decision to grant the LaSalle Park Marina Association $4 million for a new floating breakwall has further driven a stake between the platforms of two leading candidates for mayor – Rick Goldring and Marianne Meed Ward.
Goldring, the incumbent, voted in favor of the grant, while Meed Ward, the current councillor for Ward 2, was one of two councillors to oppose it.
“I believe that the LaSalle Marina is, has been, and should be a part of Burlington’s footprint,” Goldring said. “It is my view that Burlington is a Great Lakes City and we should continue to have a marina at LaSalle Park.
“The LaSalle Park Marina Association (LPMA) has operated the marina for the last 38 years at no cost to the city. In fact, the association paid for the breakwall that allowed the marina to exist. I’ve heard people say that LaSalle Park Marina is only for the most elite, but this is just not true.
“The Iron Duke Sea Cadets program relies on the marina to provide young cadets with valuable skills The program is free for Burlington youths.
“The Able Sail Program uses the marina to provide much-needed programs for people living with a disability in Burlington.
“The City has invested in many different ventures including Tyandaga Golf Course, Burlington Curling Club, Burlington Lawn Bowling Club, four different theatres and tennis clubs.”
Meed Ward, on the other hand, said she voted against the grant because she doesn’t think the City should put a drain on its hydro reserves which are targeted for infrastructure. The other priorities are not finished, she said.
“My concern has always been how the marina is paid for,” she said. “Especially given that when council did a priority capital spending survey, the marina was right at the bottom.
Meed Ward said she wanted to see the LPMA contribute $500,000 it had raised on its own.
“Tennis, soccer and gymnastics clubs pay 100 per cent of capital costs and in return we let them use our property for free,” she added. “And a significant number of boaters at the marina are from Hamilton.
“Where is Hamilton’s contribution? It’s a question of fairness and cost-sharing.”
She also said
Bob Wercholoz, a lifelong boater and former councillor for the Township of Tay which borders on Georgian Bay, suggested the current council delay its decision until a new council is in place following the Oct. 24 election. Three of the seven seats are certain to change, he pointed out.
Wercholoz said it is not a viable marina.
“LaSalle Park is not a destination point for the big boaters,” he said. “More parking, washrooms, a clubhouse, accessibility for the disabled, updated hydro and steel pipe floating docks all are needed.”
Kimberly Stevens expressed concern for the welfare of trumpeter swans in the area. She also claimed a majority of citizens don’t even know Burlington has a marina.
“They haven’t done a lot of promotion,” she said. “The LPMA should raise $1 million of this $4 million itself.”
John Birch, who has been president of the LPMA since 2007, said declining membership at the marina is entirely due to storms splashing water through the current worn-out wavebreaks.
He shot down any suggestion the marina is a club for the rich, pointing out the average family income of marina members in between $40,000 and $79,000.
“Our goal is not to be a high-end marina,” he said. “It’s very much a middle class club.”
Birch urged council to hire a coastal engineer to do a study before any work is started, possibly in the spring of 2019.
He told The Bay Observer the large number of freighters dropping anchor in the bay this year has had absolutely no negative effect on boating or the marina.
“This is the most successful harbour on the Canadian side of the Great Lakes,” he said. “These ships are bringing $5 billion to $8 billion worth of business into Hamilton and that’s creating a lot of jobs.”