South Dundas - October 29, 2013 - Why do we have such a lack of connection to our natural waterfront? This is a consequence of the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway project 55 years ago. A large amount of the land that borders the river is blocked from access. The problem is not just in South Dundas, but also all municipalities which front onto the river.
Prior to the St. Lawrence Seaway project, people lived along the river, worked along the river, played along the river. Communities formed up and down the river. When the Seaway project concluded, large swaths of land, the land that was not flooded, was barred from the residents. It has taken many years for parks and waterfront activities to grow inside the villages. But outside of those villages, it is still a major issue, and that needs to change.
Take a drive east of Morrisburg on County Road #2, most of the land between Morrisburg and Ingleside is owned by Ontario Power Generation(OPG), the St. Lawrence Parks Commission(SLPC) and some is an Ontario Provincial Park. The OPG land was restricted, in-part, because of “possible flooding”. The SLPC land is controlled with access fees for campgrounds (Riverside-Cedars) or attractions (Upper Canada Village & Crysler Park). Areas without and admission fee are blocked now. No access allowed. Try going to the Dupont Provincial Park. Good luck to you on that.
Why did this happen? The OPG Land was blocked for fear of flooding. When the Seaway was designed, they didn't have computer models like they do now. Water was unpredictable and OPG predecessor Ontario Hydro did not want to risk flooding houses. But “Inundation Day”* was 55 years ago; surely they know by now how much land would be flooded?
The SLPC is an issue on it's own. Land affiliated with it, between Crysler Park and Upper Canada Village is blocked off from use. Crysler Park, a day-use park with a beach, is closed from use most of the summer. Gates restrict traffic from visiting anything but the marina, or Upper Canada Village. The grass is still cut in these places, just no one can go in and use them.
The Provincial Park is another matter, what good is a park if you cannot get to it. On the south side of County Road #2 and the north side, there is provincial park land, but don't try to access them. No parking, no access, a bunch of fences, no signage where you are allow to go and where not.
There is no good reason for any of this to occur. The Seaway has flooded, the shores are defined, it's been 55 years. Why can't access be opened, trails opened up and parking areas along the highway built? There is land where a former gas station was located, a great spot for parking already. Why can't the St. Lawrence Parks Commission keep Crysler Beach open all summer, or park and picnic on the grass near their marina? Why are all of these things locked up and closed off for the winter? How can people discover and explore the provincial park, if there is no way to get to it?
The motto for Ontario is “Yours to Discover”, it's on every licence plate in the province. For 55 years, for generations, people have been cut-off from the river, let them discover it again.
*Inundation Day was July 1st, 1958 when the St. Lawrence Seaway was flooded from Iroquois to Cornwall, creating Lake St. Lawrence and the deep draft shipping system in place now. For more information on the St. Lawrence-Seaway Project and how the communities were affected, visit the Lost Villages Historical Society website at www.lostvillages.ca