The city of Kingston is planning its next big waterfront improvement project, which would transform nearly a half kilometre of large jagged rocks into a pedestrian pathway in Lake Ontario.
The so-called Confederation Basin Promenade ranked as one of the top priorities in the city’s 2016 waterfront master plan, a blueprint to improve and create continuous public access to the water on both publicly and privately owned lands.
The 450-metre long L-shaped stone breakwall, constructed in 1990, juts into Lake Ontario from Battery Park (formerly known as Block D) and shelters the marina in Confederation Basin from the harsh waves.
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Kingston currently has no such public walkway that reaches that far into the lake.
“It’s an opportunity for people to view sights from the water, and the city, as they’ve never been able to previously,” says Laurie Paquin, project manager for the city.
Key highlights of the preliminary design include a three-metre wide pathway with a public swimming area and floating dock added to the sheltered side of the breakwall about 100 metres from shore, plus bollard lighting, flags, seating areas and other furnishings.
The same swimming area could also be used for launching non-motorized vessels such as canoes and kayaks, model boats and fishing.
Further out, a public lookout point would be added where the breakwall bends.
The public lookout could be extended to a lighthouse at the outermost reaches of the breakwall, 450 metres from shore, along with a deep water swimming point and artwork, all subject to future funding approval.
Transforming the breakwall into a pedestrian pathway with seating, lighting, swimming and lookout opportunities was ranked number five out of the 137 projects identified by the waterfront plan.
The $2.7-million budget was already approved by council and construction is expected to start in 2023.
“(This) will allow the project to extend roughly 240 metres to the bend of the breakwall,” Paquin explains.
Extending the pathway to the breakwall’s end, by an extra 210 metres, would mean the city would have to increase the budget, which could happen based on public input.
“A variety of project enhancements, not included in the current approved budget, will be identified during the public engagement process. Based on the results of public engagement and approval by city council, project enhancements may be considered, subject to the ability to secure diverse sources of funding,” according to the city.
But before the work begins, the city is undertaking public consultation this summer to gather ideas on the design elements.
Residents were recently introduced to the in-water vision, while learning about the breakwater, wave conditions and preliminary ideas for the walkway, seating, lighting and swimming concepts.
There is now a public survey underway, from July 12 to Aug. 3, giving residents an opportunity to share their thoughts on what they think of the existing space, the proposed changes and the project enhancements that are currently not included in the current budget.
“This is an introduction to the project. It’s an opportunity for the public to provide feedback,” Paquin says.
A second public consultation phase will occur this fall to summarize a final proposed plan.
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City council recently awarded a $280,000 contract to MBTW Group to work on transforming the currently forbidden boulders into a safely accessible promenade.
Creating a pathway from jagged rocks will be no easy task.
The breakwall is designed to protect the marina from southwest winds that create 2.5-metre tall waves.
Some elements of the breakwall’s redesign will remain in place such as navigation lights, while proposed enhancements will make public safety and protection from large waves a top priority, according to the city.
A detailed design will be finalized in 2022 with anticipated construction the following year.
The proposed promenade is the city’s first major waterfront improvement project in three years following the celebrating restoration and reopening of Breakwater Park and its redesigned Gord Downie Pier, named after the late The Tragically Hip frontman in recognition of his involvement in the stewardship of the lake, at a cost of $6.6 million.