Barrie’s ‘crown jewel’ Centennial Park focus of renewal

Centennial Park design calls for water’s edge boardwalk and kiosks renting bicycles, canoes and other amenities

Design and vision of Centennial Park described in staff report

By John Devine
City Scene Barrie

A vision of a Centennial Park enlarged by 10 acres and sporting a boardwalk along the waterfront, a splash park and privately run rental recreational opportunities got its first public airing Monday night at general committee.
Obviously pleased by what they saw, committee unanimously endorsed the plan, adding a couple of details. Ward 2 Coun. Lynn Strachan’s suggestion that staff review the location for rental kiosks, with an eye to having them near the south end of the marina, was supported, as was her request that staff investigate the use of solar energy for lighting in the park.
A new boardwalk running along the shoreline was a hit with committee, however Ward 6 Coun. Michael Prowse asked staff to ensure measures were in place to keep bicycles and other wheeled conveyances off the boardwalk, which is envisioned for pedestrian usage.
Staff indicated that solar-powered lighting would be costlier than conventional LED lighting, which is what the staff report proposed. Standard costs for walkway lighting, committee was told, is about $3,400 to $4,000 per unit, including connections. Solar-powered lighting would cost about $7,000 per unit, not including the cost of replacing the batteries.
Committee was also told that the solar option could be problematic in the winter, when there is less sunlight to generate power.
Including the amendments, the motion as adopted had three parts: 1) that the conceptual design be approved, 2) that the Centennial Park Conceptual Design be part of the overall plan for moving Lakeshore Drive, from Toronto to Tiffin streets, to the old rail line, thereby freeing up the land for additional park space, 3) that prior to tendering the Lakeshore project, council be advised of any design changes resulting in recommendations to the Waterfront and Marina Master Plan.
The Lakeshore/Centennial project dates back to 2004 when the council of the day passed the Waterfront/Downtown Transportation Improvement Needs Assessment study, one of the recommendations of which was that separate bike and walking paths be provided through the park. As part of a Municipal Class EA study, the relocation of Lakeshore to the old rail corridor was determined.
Two years ago, in the spring of 2009, the process of renewing four waterfront parks – Heritage, Centennial, Memorial Square, and the proposed Military Heritage Park at the Allandale Station Park, on the south shore – was launched under the title of the Waterfront Parks Initiative. The Planning Partnership was awarded the job of preparing conceptual designs for the four parks.
The vision for Memorial Square as Barrie’s “gathering place” was presented in the spring, and endorsed by council. (See this City Scene Barrie story).
A series of public consultations were held in the spring of 2010 to present design concepts to the public and receive feedback. A common theme for Centennial Park was that it is a “crown jewel” of Barrie, but was in need of renewal.
The design concept sees major changes to the park in the area of Dyment’s Creek, which currently flows through the Water Pollution Control Plant, and out to the bay via a culvert at the Rotary Fountain. The plan calls for the ‘day-lighting’ of the creek, accomplished by creating a channel about 30 metres wide, creating two separate but linked park areas.
The opening of the creek, says the staff report, will be environmentally positive, increasing the oxygen levels in the creek to the benefit of fish habitats.
The park’s waterfront is currently not accessible for people with mobility issues, and the design proposes to address that by creating a continuous boardwalk running the length of the park, with access to the water’s edge. The boardwalk, as proposed, will be four metres wide.
The design for the actual road calls for it to have a travel lane with a minimum area of four metres, allowing for additional space to be used as a cycling lane. Slower cyclists can access the multi-use lane envisioned for inside the park area.
The cost of the design work was included in the 2011 budget, in the amount of $100,000. Construction is being proposed for 2012 and 2014, part of the 2011 to 2020 business plan.
Ward 7 Coun. John Brassard asked staff to develop the park as a year-round destination, commenting that the report seemed “summer-centric.” He was told by staff the intent was to have year-round park usage. Ward 8 Coun. Jennifer Robinson added that she wanted to ensure accessibility issues were addressed in the design plans. She was told staff had met with the accessibility committee, which raised no concerns.
Mayor Jeff Lehman said a small portion of the park would be used for parking, but most of the additional space would be for parkland and related usages.
“All of this is a significant enhancement … 10 new acres of additional parkland on the waterfront.”

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