On Wednesday, March 25th, staff of the Burlington Parks and Recreation Department (Mr. Robert Peachey and Ms. Roberta Lau) held an open public meeting at the Burlington Seniors Centre showcasing possible designs for the proposed new Windows-to-the-Lake at St. Paul, Market and, potentially, Green Streets. A copy of the presentation material can be viewed here (*Windows to the Lake ).
The meeting was well attended and well managed. However, it quickly became evident that there were at least two camps present; residents who supported the concept of Windows-to-the-Lake as neighbourhood treasures and those who considered them an unnecessary waste of tax dollars or ‘perhaps nice to have but not on my patch, thank you’. Most of the debate centred around just how elaborate, given Council’s approval for ‘minimalist implementations’, the Windows-to-the-Lake should be. The adverse effect of traffic and possible vandalism on neighbouring homes was also raised. The following ‘open letter’ from Gary Scobie, Co-Chair of Burlington Waterfront, to Roberta Lau, Landscape Designer, provides a personal and, we believe, well balanced assessment.
I attended the Windows-to-the-Lake Design presentation on Wednesday with a few of my colleagues from Burlington Waterfront. I was very impressed with the design concepts and the intention of creating and completing all three new windows at St. Paul, Market and Green Streets.
I think the Appleby Place Window is a great example of what a Window-to-the-Lake can be, with a little necessary trimming along the sides and especially at the lake, where the view is obstructed by both low and higher branch and leaf growth. Councillor Dennison mentioned earlier to us his vision of trimming out a window so that lower brush would be trimmed so anyone could see over it and trees would be trimmed up to a height to create a true “window” across each property. I and my colleagues would support that vision.
At Appleby Place, the path winds between mature trees at the side, providing shade and some sense of privacy for both Windows users and abutting property owners. It also leads the eye toward the lake and the view of the water and invites the public to follow the path. The post and chain concept works well there and is adequate to convey the message of possible hazard, yet also keep the view open to the water.
In my comments at the meeting, I expressed a desire for Windows-to-the-Lake signage at each site and also at Lakeshore Road, to point out, mostly to walkers and cyclists, that an opportunity to view our shoreline exists just metres to the south. Although many detractors worried about parking issues, I don’t see these Windows being “destinations” for people in cars that often. Most people travelling to Burlington by car along Lakeshore Road will plan to gravitate to one of the larger parkettes like Sioux Lookout or Port Nelson Park where there are parking lots, and still more likely to our large parks like Burloak Park, Palleta Park, Spencer Smith, Beachway Park or LaSalle Park.
This fear of parking problems is very much a red herring, just as is an increase in vandalism etc. Most of that takes place in less developed areas where there is more chance of privacy and less chance of being caught. As these Windows become developed and better cared for, they will attract more local residents, be used more often and thus be less inviting to young folk these residents claim to fear.
I was also pleased to hear Rob Peachey mention use of money left over after developing these new Windows to improve the existing Windows to the east. Putting all of the money from the sale of the Water Street lands back into public waterfront access through Windows creation and improvements is something that Burlington Waterfront very much supports.
I invite my colleagues to respond to you as well with their own thoughts on this initiative and applaud your designs that include use of trees along the sides of the Windows.
Co-Chair, Burlington Waterfront
Burlington Waterfront supports the completion of all possible Windows-to-the-Lake east of Spencer Smith Park. This includes Green Street although this site was not specifically encompassed in Council’s approval. The manner in which the ‘windows’ will be completed is, of course, up to Council to decide. Like Council, Burlington Waterfront favours a minimalist approach, allowing the natural beauty of the lakefront to be the primary feature. In this regard, we have cited Appleby Place as an excellent example of a simple, well maintained and well signed Window-to-the-Lake.
In addition we support use of the proceeds from the Water Street land sale to fund the new windows, refurbish those that need restoration and make several improvements to Port Nelson Park. The monies from the disposal of the Water Street property is unallocated capital and does not affect current budgeted park maintenance and development plans. Staff of the Parks and Recreation Department also recommend this course of action and we expect it to be included in the report that will be brought to Council for vote on June 22, 2015.
We believe that there is general support on Council for using the Water Street funds to provide the new and refurbished windows east of Spencer Smith. At this point, any remaining issues should be largely a question of design. We trust that Council will vote to use the funds received from disposing of part of the public’s waterfront heritage, the Water Street property, to restore another portion of that heritage, the unfinished Windows-to-the-Lake. For Council to fail now is to submit to one of the worst examples of prolonged and entitled NIMBYism that we have experienced and to weaken its crucial role of enhancing public access to Burlington’s waterfront assets.