Few issues have received more public attention than the proposed floating dock for Victoria Park in Charlottetown. Following a wave of public opposition, unanswered questions and spotty paperwork, council did the prudent thing and decided to delay installation plans until next spring.
It’s unfortunate that such public concern wasn’t evident when far more intrusive developments took place along the Charlottetown waterfront. There is a hodge-podge of condo developments, recreation areas, eating establishments, cruise ship berths and industrial uses along the waterfront. Cruise ships, tenders, barges, watercraft and yachts of all sizes jostle for sea room and berthage.
It’s little wonder that kayakers and canoeists – who seek a quiet paddle in calm waters away from the noise and haste - have little interest in launching or plying their craft amid the harbour hub-bub. The Victoria Park shoreline offers safety, relative quiet and access – once a floating dock is installed.
The idea all seemed so innocent, until the floating dock was painted with the same tar-laden brush as the mercantile madness along the city’s harbour. The floating dock is to be located near the Kiwanis canteen for a reason - the water there is deep enough that craft could still be safely launched or docked at low tide.
Much of the public comment to this newspaper was against the development. Many letters came from middle-aged or older residents who think the park is over-developed now. They want to halt anything that might disrupt quiet walks, a leisurely drive around the roadway, watching children playing or viewing the sunset from a parked car.
On social media, the comments ran very strongly in favour of the floating dock. Younger people want the dock as a leisure or recreational option. Unless the park is enjoyed and appreciated, there will be fewer people and fewer reasons to defend and protect it.
A park is a living, breathing, green treasure that brings people together because there are things to do. There is more to Victoria Park than a boardwalk to walk the family dog. Citizens come there to watch a ball game, play tennis, skateboard, eat an ice cream cone, swim in the pool – and yes, go for a paddle in a canoe or kayak without fear of being swamped in busy sea lanes.
At Monday’s council meeting, it was revealed that consultations must first take place with the Charlottetown Harbour Authority and that a written agreement must also be signed. It was just getting too late in the season to rush things forward on the floating dock.
There were mistakes made by the city, which likely raised the level of concern among opponents. Now there is time to correct them. The resolution still stands. The floating dock is still in the plans but now there is time to address parking, safety and access issues.
Victoria Park was established for the enjoyment of all P.E.I. residents. That requires basic infrastructure such as rest rooms, boardwalk and access. Park attractions are a matter of careful thought and proper balance.