For the past year, Niagara-on-the-Lake residents and visitors alike have been enjoying a beautiful new shoreline walk along Lake Ontario, just north of the NOTL Golf Club links.
This summer the serenity of the path has been disrupted somewhat with the presence of construction crews working on the final phase of the Parks Canada project.
Crews from Cameron Building Group out of St. Catharines are busy installing a new boardwalk along the northwest side of Fort Mississauga. The boardwalk will soon link the new waterfront walkway with the path through the golf club to the fort.
When completed this fall, locals and tourists will be able to stroll safely from town, through the golf course pathway, around Fort Mississauga, then along the shoreline of Lake Ontario. They will emerge just behind the fourth green of the golf course, near the cairn monument to the Battle of Fort George, where Queen Street winds its way around an S-curve onto Niagara Boulevard.
A representative from project management company Canada Building Group of Mississauga says the raised walkway alongside the fort was necessary to ensure the pathway will be fully accessible to all.
Parks Canada’s main objective is to focus on the declining condition of cultural resources of national significance at Fort Mississauga, including the historic grounds which are now home to the NOTL Golf Club, while also providing a safe and enjoyable experience for visitors who want to access the fort and its viewing platform.
The extension of the trail should result in an increased number of visitors to the fort, meaning more people will be walking the golf course path, which currently requires them to cross in front of the second tee.
Golf club owner and operator John Wiens says he has been kept informed and been part of the decision-making throughout the entire process.
“We work well together,” confirms Wiens. “We had a lot of communication, especially in the timing. We had to close the back tee on #8 a couple of times. There was some noise and dust last year during the walkway construction, but our members were great, and it wasn’t a big deal.”
The latest work is part of the final phase of construction designed to protect Fort Mississauga National Historic Site. The shoreline walkway itself, with 600 metres of breakwall, is part of that protection, as it has been installed to combat erosion and to stabilize the shore.
On Monday, trees and brush along the earthworks to the fort were being cleared. Still to come as part of the project is the planting of more than 400 Carolinian trees and shrubs along the trail. The design for this re-vegetation plan was prepared in consultation with Wiens and the NOTL Golf Club, who leases its land from Parks Canada.
According to a Parks Canada press release, the earthworks and breakwall surrounding the fort itself are overgrown with mostly non-native and invasive tree and shrub species. These can damage the breakwall and earthworks archeology with their root systems. Parks Canada will remove about 100 trees and shrubs, and replace them with locally sourced, native Ontario grasses, selected for their minimal maintenance and water requirements. They have assured that no species at risk trees will be removed, and tree removal will continue in September, well outside of the active bird nesting season.
The project has at its roots a 2012 strategic assessment of Parks Canada’s asset portfolio. Sarah Simpson, public relations officer for the Southwestern Ontario field unit, says that assessment considered visitor safety, ensuring high-quality visitor experiences, preserving the ecological integrity of parks and marine conservation areas, and maintenance and conservation of historic sites.
Wiens says the walkway and the clear view of the lake now enhance the walkabout experience for golfers. He doesn’t anticipate needing to make changes to the #2 tee, despite the prospect of increased visitors. “We might have to put up a low chain to stop people from wandering off the path, and maybe a couple more stop signs, if anything. But I think it’s really going to be a beautiful thing for the community and our citizens.”
The total budget for the project, including the 2019 repairs and restoration to the fort building itself, is $4.9 million, through federal infrastructure funding.