Sunday, May 31, 2009

Collingwood Can Learn From Other's Mistakes

When the shipyards closed in 1986, Collingwood was handed a tremendous opportunity to regain its waterfront and this was partially secured when plans were established with the Fram Building Group to construct The Shipyards, a residential housing project which included a proposed pedestrian walkway along the water.
As a native of Toronto it was unfortunate to see Toronto's waterfront ultimately offer such limited access to the public. The Gardiner Expressway has taken a lot of the blame for having created a barrier between Torontonians and Lake Ontario. The reality however is that a significant portion of Toronto's waterfront with the exception of Ontario Place and Queens Quay has become dominated by expensive high-rise condo projects. It is these and not the Gardiner that has created the barrier that prevents the public-at-large from accessing what should be the crown jewel of the city.
I lived in Chicago for four years during which time I always admired how that city had maintained abundant access to its waterfront with parks, marinas and venues such as the Shedd Aquarium and Adler Planetarium etc. As a frequent business traveler throughout the U.S., I visited about 45 out of the 50 states and saw first-hand what numerous U.S. communities had done to take advantage of their waterfront locations not to mention the preservation of their architectural heritage.
Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco for example is a major tourist destination with annual visitors numbering into the hundreds of thousands. The ability for people to access a waterfront, to sit at an outdoor cafĂ©, shop, even to just stroll around looking at the water, passing boats etc. has an almost hypnotic affect. Whatever the reason, people are naturally drawn to water and Collingwood has a tremendous opportunity to development this major attribute into both a cultural and economic phenomena.
This past week, Collingwood Council viewed a conceptual plan presented by its Leisure Services department to transform the waterfront area into a facility that would draw upon and service the needs of recreational boaters. The plan would call for increased boat dockage eventually totaling approximate 500 slips. There would also be a provision for amenities such as washroom and laundry facilities and a variety of other services. This plan should also however focus of pedestrians, giving both The Shipyards and other Collingwood residents as well as visitors to the area, ample opportunity and reason to visit what might ultimately be one of the main economic drivers to the area. We have at our doorstep one of the most remarkable and scenic bodies of fresh water in the world. Our waterfront represents a unique opportunity with limitless potential and I would urge our Council to explore the development of this valued asset. We may not have the warm year-round weather of a San Francisco, nonetheless we still have the makings of a great waterfront venue that can be used and enjoyed several months of the year. Ultimately it was the accessibility to the water that set the foundation for this community's future and that opportunity is before us once again. Let's not make the same mistake that Toronto and other cities and towns have done by isolating the public from one of the very features that makes our town the draw that it is.

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Rick relocated to Collingwood from Toronto in 1985 through a transfer with Goodyear Canada. In 1987 Rick was recruited by a major client of Goodyear’s, managing their Canadian business based in Barrie before moving to Chicago in 1992 as Vice President of Sales & Marketing. Upon returning to Canada in 1996, Rick ran an industrial products manufacturing company in Stratford, Ontario. In 1998 Rick returned to Collingwood with his two children. Rick is a licensed real estate Broker with Royal LePAGE Locations North in Collingwood and holds his MVA designation (Market Value Appraiser-Residential). He is an active volunteer in the community serving several years on the Board of Directors with the Collingwood Chamber of Commerce as Treasurer, 6 years on the Board of Directors for the Southern Georgian Bay Association of REALTORS® of which he is the Past President (2008) and currently serves on a committee with the Ontario Real Estate Association. Rick is a diverse executive manager with extensive experience in strategic planning, manufacturing, finance, human resources and quality assurance management.