I went to another Conversation Couch meeting and it knocked the stuffing out of me. Early in 2016 I stopped going to these monthly meetings the city puts on to keep us informed about developments in the West Harbour. The meetings had become sour and repetitive. But I decided to give it another shot.
Just a few weary soldiers turned up for the January meeting, maybe 12 or 15 people. The agenda item I was interested in was the design process for public spaces and parks on the waterfront. If it was discussed I don’t remember it. Instead we were subjected to nearly an hour of pure tedium about making Bayfront Beach safe for swimming. It was so tedious, it was more interesting watching a guy eat his quinoa salad dinner from a Tupperware container.
Bayfront Park opened in 1993, the beach has basically been on a No Swim list since 1999. Once in a blue moon it meets water quality standards and is deemed swimmable, but you will never see toddlers splashing in it or triathletes there training for their next competition in Maui.
However there is a perception that Hamiltonians are quivering to do the crawl at Bayfront Beach, so the city hired AECOM Canada Engineering Consultants to investigate the murky waters.
At the meeting two consultants from AECOM spent at least 40 minutes telling us why the beach is polluted and what might be done about it. As my late boss at CHCH used to say “they have a great grasp of the obvious.” The beach is polluted because the water doesn’t circulate and a lot of geese defecate in it.
As a reporter at CHCH in the 1980’s I covered many waterfront subcommittee meetings and still have my notebooks. Even before the park was created on the former landfill site, the source of pollution at the “future” beach was known and there was a proposal to install a chlorine curtain to filter the water to swimmable standards.
After AECOM told us what we already knew nearly 30 years ago they presented possible fixes, including the wacky and wild idea of stringing the beach with monofilament line so that the geese wouldn’t hang out there. Other geese deterrents included making the grass less tasty to eat, and using drones to chase them away. It was excruciating listening.
Tell me, do any universities make courses in common sense mandatory? Based on an 86 page PDF at hamiltonharbour.ca a total of 491 people surveyed by the city and AECOM would like to see swimming at Bayfront Beach. Most responses came from an online survey, and some didn’t even live in the area. What other projects in the city are going forward based on the desires of 491 people?
Cleaning up water is always a good idea. But Bayfront Beach represents just a tiny portion of Hamilton Harbour. The consultant’s report notes that the majority of Hamilton Harbour has tested safe for swimming, but many people do not believe it.
So would they ever believe Bayfront Beach is safe for swimming-even after geese have been rounded up and relocated (another suggestion in the report)? It’s doubtful. At Bayfront people like to walk, cycle, fly kites, and sit in the shade and have a picnic. I’d say forget spending money on consultants and plans to purify a tiny cove of water. Plant more trees, put in more tables and benches, a bocce court would be nice, pickleball courts too-they have them at the Buffalo waterfront. And maybe establish an Office of Common Sense at city hall.