Parking and a boat launch are emerging as early concerns for residents interested in the redevelopment of Orillia’s waterfront.
The city held an open house Tuesday at the Orillia Public Library, where project consultant Studio TLA provided details of two potential concepts for the area that includes Couchiching Beach Park, Centennial Park and Veterans’ Memorial Park.
The “passive” concept looked at enhancing but maintaining many of the existing features, while the “active” concept is a more dramatic transformation of the parks.
The passive plan calls for the removal or relocation of the boat ramp.
“Look at the number of boaters who come to Orillia. They have money. They buy gas, groceries and go to the restaurants. Take (the boat launch) out, but tell me where you’re going to put it,” Steve Goulter said, referring to a conceptual drawing that showed the ramp gone but didn’t suggest an alternative spot for it.
John Parker shared that concern.
“I’m surprised one of their potential plans doesn't have a plan for a boat launch,” he said. “It’s a big drawing point.”
Various display boards were set up, and visitors were asked to place green stickers on areas they liked and red ones on concepts they disagreed with. The boat launch was littered with a mix of both.
There weren’t many stickers placed on the area of Terry Fox Circle. The passive plan calls for the removal of parking spots and vehicular access, resulting in the “pedestrianization” of the feature. The active plan calls for the removal of Terry Fox Circle altogether.
The active concept also includes a splash pad at Couchiching Beach Park, an upgraded playground, more gardens around the greenhouse, a wooden walkway that will curve out and over the water in one area, a refrigerated skate trail — which would serve as a regular trail outside of winter — a playground at Veterans’ Memorial Park and an “art plaza” near the end of Mississaga Street. It would also see Veterans’ Memorial Park become a place to showcase more monuments and sculptures.
“The point of active is to increase activity,” said Eliza Oprescu, of Studio TLA, noting with passive, “we’re massaging what’s already there into something safer.”
One example of that is removing traffic from the park.
Another concern among attendees was, in the active plan, the removal of the parking lot near the current location of the boat launch. In that plan, another, smaller parking lot would be created farther from the shore.
“There’s not a lot of parking close to the water,” Ann Parker said, noting many people like to watch the waterfront traffic come and go from their cars. “Closer parking would be nice, especially for the seniors.”
Overall, the Parkers were excited to see the city take the next step toward redevelopment.
“Both (concepts) would be better than doing nothing or destroying it,” John Parker said.
Alec Adams said the plans “look OK.”
“It’s a work in progress. I don’t think I have any huge problems with either one,” he said. “I just don’t want to see a bunch of tall buildings along the waterfront and I don’t want to see the place become a commercial Coney Island.”
Visitors to the open house were able to fill out a survey to indicate whether they “love it,” “like it” or “do not support” proposed changes to each of the parks. That survey will be available online, along with all of the visuals that were on display Tuesday, by the end of the week. It can be found here.
Once all of the feedback has been received, Studio TLA will use it to design another concept, which will be presented to city council for consideration.