Skip to content

LETTER: A completely different idea for waterfront development

Citizen suggests that turning area into 'busy, year-round playground' for citizens and visitors is a better approach
Stock image

Written in support of the wonderful letter from Kate Grigg in response to recent articles about the city's ambitious waterfront development plan, published on Dec. 12, 2018 in OrilliaMatters

I recommend the Orillia lakefront continue to be developed as a busy, year-round playground for Orillia citizens and city visitors - in the form of tourists and competitors in a myriad of competitive, enjoyable activity!

Forget the expensive housing developments that profit only the developer and a very few who live with the “new” lake view.

Are there enough activities to make the waterfront a perpetual attraction to citizens and tourists alike? Depends on whether you’re willing to work at it or not. Here’s a list to start with that requires a lot less capital expenditure and a lot more useful human endeavour (both citizen and city staff)!

There are many summer water events that can be used to greatly increase citizen and tourism enjoyment and bring customers to Orillia businesses. Starting small and grow – intending to become regular events with provincial and international popularity.

Promotional advertising and organizational commitment/determination are required. Advertise locally, provincially, and, ultimately, internationally. Require early registration to ensure there will be a field. Charge entry fees sufficient to cover administration and prizes.

Use local club organizations as much as possible but retain overall central control for coordinated administration and scheduling – and the long-range view of citizen and tourist participation – and business expansion.

Get advertising and invitations out there to attract the thousands of sailors, canoeists, swimmers, skiers, and water-sport enthusiasts to regular competitive-social outings in Orillia, first in our southern Ontario catchment area, and then throughout North America.

In no particular order:

  • Weekly sailing regattas. Start late May or early June run week-end start and finish in harbor. Run 4 invitational championships (nominally 15th of June, July, August, and September) for several classes of sailboat. All sailboat classes may enter every race (until participation grows to require separate boat-class races to avoid over-crowding. Final championship weekend before or after Labour day. Consider 2 or 3 races for larger sail boats from the Port of Orillia to the Barrie’s downtown lake front.
  • Four monthly marathon swimming events. Multiple distances. Prizes or recognition trophies. Use Champlain and Tudhope beaches for start and/or finish.
  • Monthly water sky/surfboard professional shows and amateur competitions with a late August championship.
  • Canoe Racing and Sculling races. Bi-weekly local races; provincially and/or nationally advertised races twice per season – nominally July 10th and Aug. 25.
  • Weekly band or choir concerts on Sunday afternoons or evenings using amateur or professional groups. Requires a 500-seat elevated oval for viewing performances in a low-level stage/band shell on the shore-line, recessed to leave good view of the harbor.
  • Carnival attraction for two to three days every summer.
  • A large skateboard venue which can be used by locals and to organize city and provincial championships—also viewable form the seating oval.

There are many “winter lake” events that can be used to greatly increase citizen and tourism enjoyment and bring customers to Orillia businesses.

Ice-fishing: A derby every week starting late December or Jan. 1. Registration with entry fees for weekly contest; extra money for an annual trophy. Biggest fish and most unusual prizes weekly; seasonal grand prizes.

Contestant may bring their own equipment (auger, hut, gear, heater) or may rent from new shop located under the band oval’s elevated seating, or perhaps rent one of several semi-permanent ready-to-go “hut and hole “units. Have three or four monthly “BIG DERBIES” with BIG prizes, BIG registration and entry fees, special evening performances in the Orillia Opera House; specials in all the downtown restaurants, and package deals (any or all of lodging, meals, BIG DERBY entry fee/registration, tickets to entertainment, perhaps even transportation from and return to Toronto Airport(s) thru pedaled by all the Orillia hotels and motels, Chamber of Commerce, and town hall.

Skating and Skiing: Interest children in healthy outdoor sport which is inexpensive, readily accessible, and fun! The enthusiasm for fun competition makes participants more receptive to coaching efforts; more community participation results through involvement of each team’s adult manager and coach.

Short races make attendance and support by parents and adults more likely. Introductory coaching is advantageous to the children, and to the parents who see steady improvement in technique and performance of their kids. Existing skating and skiing enthusiasts will willingly become coaches and managers of these “learning teams”

A racing league for kids could be a healthy winner. Fashion the competition after the Nancy Greene Ski League. Pick teams of children aged 7 to 13 years. Form as many teams of 10 to 12 members as registration allows. Pick team members by age and skill levels, trying to balance them. Record names of team members (fixed for the season). Hold races every week on Saturday or Sunday mornings.

The driver of the plow that clears snow off the racing loop on the lake ice sets the race course. It should be twisty with both left and right turns; enough to be difficult for young skaters. Use flexible vertical markers to clearly define the course. Length of the course loop may be varied such that it will take skaters 30 to 90 seconds to complete. Start and finish lines are side-by-side (one line) so a timer may easily and accurately record a competitor’s time. Seven to ten timers with stop watches are required, plus a recorder to write down the individual racer's times, and to do the accounting necessary to establish the winning team.

Every racer who finishes gets points for his/her team, proportional to finish position; failure to finish the race earns zero points for your team; going off the course or falling is forgivable unless the competitor fails to complete the race legally. The team with the most points wins the day. Starting racers at 20 second intervals will allow two to four racers on the course at a time, and complete a competition involving 6 teams of 12 racers each in under a half hour. They can have hot dogs and hot chocolate while they wait for the overall results to be tabulated. A healthy outdoor hour for a mix of young boys and girls at very little expense to participants or organizers!

Short cross-country ski races: Use the same Nancy Greene type teams and competition short cross-country races on-the-lake and in the park (Couchiching or Tudhope). Cost to the individual will be a little more than skating. Races will take longer, but team competition makes participation at every skill level inviting and fun.

Capital cost of this lakefront development is small and its potential long-term benefits to current and future citizens and businesses far exceeds that of the grand plan currently under consideration by council – in profit to businesses, public spirit, and physical health, plus learning the benefits of respectful cooperation and friendly competition.

Paul Bennett