Stratford gets earful on waterfront access

Nigel Armstrong
Published on March 4, 2014

Google map showing five blue markers on public waterfront access points.

STRATFORD — The town of Stratford wants to formalize existing access points to the shoreline, but area residents are not so supportive.

Stratford hired Ekistics Planning and Design to come up with some options to enhance existing areas where residents already get to the water’s edge without trespassing. These are all small areas where roads either still extend to the shore, or used to.

One is the former location for the ferry service that once joined Southport to Charlottetown.

Active map of access points

A public meeting was held recently to unveil some options for five areas described as Mason Road, Bayside Drive, Aptos Drive, Langley Road and Spruce Lane.

Each proposal includes some location for parking, mostly two or three vehicles, and a “pad” to place benches and trash containers. Some access points are at edges of cliffs or banks, so they might have a look-off deck and no access to the water’s edge, or alternatively, stairs down. Some need trails from the end of nearby roads to the water’s edge.

All five points would include signage announcing the public access.

The meeting often heard the term “beach access” which caused significant derision during the meeting attended by close to 30 people.

Paul Walsh lives on Bayside Drive and spoke at the public meeting.

“It’s not a beach, actually, it’s the Charlottetown harbour,” he said. “At low tide, the strong current and about 80 feet of water there, it is fairly dangerous for children that don’t know the area.”

Pam Hall lives near the Aptos Drive location.

“There are quite a few people that bring their dogs there to dump, so you wouldn’t want to swim,” she said.

Vahid Ghomashchi, director of planning for Stratford, set the record straight.

“We have a policy statement in our official plan (about shore access) and also during the review of the official plan which we did last summer, we had interest from people, asking for access to the shore,” said Ghomashchi. “We are not looking to develop beach access, but we are looking for shore access, actually.”

Stratford resident Ray Murphy and others talked about the parties, vandalism and littering that happens now at these as-yet-undeveloped public access points.

The meeting heard that any wooden structure of any kind would end up ripped apart for firewood or torn away by storms, wind or ice.

“I think we are inviting more things to happen,” said Murphy of the noise and vandalism problems.

“Where we live, most activity takes place after dark,” said Murphy. “Very noisy.”

One resident asked if there would be hours of operation posted for the developed sites.

Murphy said police are not able to help much due to low staffing levels.

“We call about 9:30 p.m. and at 2 a.m. you are still putting up with the racket, and any other incidents that go along with it, as the people in our back yard, performing things that I don’t have to go into great detail right now but that I don’t really want to see on a regular basis or see expand,” said Murphy.

Stratford Mayor David Dunphy told The Guardian a timeline for development has not been established. The project is just in the planning stage, he said.

“We might do one this year, we might do one a year for five years,” he said. “We haven’t made any decisions in that area yet.”

There still needs to be a final decision on the proposals after consideration of the public input, he said.

“It’s just important for people to have their say.” said Dunphy.

Other concerns raised were litter control, increased traffic in small, residential areas, wildlife disruption, liability risk and environmental assessment on a Heritage river.

It fell to resident John Salter to stand as the one resident in full support of the project.

“I suspect I represent quite a few people within our community, in terms of access to our waterfront,” he said.

“People have brought up some extremely important concerns tonight,” said Salter. “I think with careful planning perhaps the wishes of those people who don’t have access to the shoreline, or very limited access to the shoreline and those living on it can be met and some kind of compromise can be realized.”