Many obstacles to city waterfront beach

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Cornwall waterfront

Those looking to swim at a waterfront beach in Cornwall better not hold their breath waiting for it to become a reality.

A report to city council, which will be presented Monday night, suggests the costs of such a venture will be measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and there is still a deluge of environmental work to be completed before such a project would be started in an area many fear is contaminated.

The report, from the city's planning department, suggests council needs to authorize examining the issue further before approving any plans.

"A beach proposal of this nature is much more complex in the range and sensitivity of issues than is generally accepted by the public," Ken Bedford, the city's planning manager, said in the report, adding more environmental assessment of the land needs to be completed too. "It is imperative that council gather comprehensive/expert data to assess, then determine a realistic feasibility to move forward with such a project."

Many local residents have lined up in suppport of creating a beach in a small inlet behind the Royal Canadian Air Force Association building along the city's waterfront.

Cornwall's Waterfront Development Committee heard a presentation in September which highlighted that specific parcel of waterfront land.

The committee undertook to determine the likelihood of such a scenario playing out and had to consider things like mercury levels in the sediment, construction/operating costs and the timeline for approval from local governing bodies.

Dr. Jeff Ridal, executive director of the St. Lawrence River Institute, and a local expert on the river in general, has suggested to the city there is not enough scientific data in place to properly determine if a waterfront beach is safe.

Sediment and water-quality concerns permiate the city's waterfront, thanks to decades of pollution from large industries of the past, Ridal said in a letter to the city.

"Some initial (Raisin Region Conservation Authority) testing suggests that there are mercury levels in the inlet sediment," reads Bedford's report.

The environmental concerns are on top of what would likely be a hefty price tag for such a project.

It's been 10 years since a preliminary costing was completed on a beach proposal for the city. But in the early 2000s it was thought a beach would cost $750,000 to build and nearly $50,000 a year to operate.

Bedford feels those numbers have likely increased in the last 10 years.

Geographic location: Cornwall

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