What makes a waterfront? Seems like a simple question, but our answers may surprise. The coming series will invite you to examine your municipality and its waterfront. Unless yours is a prairie desert, you have a waterfront. It is both a current and historical asset that summons attention.
Historically, villages, then towns, then cities have grown up on the water…the essence of life. Clean water provides a healthy existence in many ways – drinking, washing, cleaning, cooling, heating, power generation, social solace, and recreation.
Toronto for years accepted its central waterfront as its economic generator, ignoring the complexity of its social and recreation benefits. Today, late in its development, it struggles with what to do because there are so many stakeholders with conflicting visions. John Tory has his work cut out for him dealing with Ontario Place.
In York Region, Vaughan misunderstood that it, too, has waterfront(s). Major rivers, Humber and Don, flow through it, as the rivers’ natural valleys are squeezed and ignored as major assets. Rears of properties back onto the edges of the valleys, disguising this immense benefit, but evidencing the folly of 1980′s planning. Meanwhile, former Mayor Tom Taylor of Newmarket embraced the Holland River as the Town’s core social and recreation asset. He and the council of the time, by funding a simple trail, invited Newmarket residents to the river’s side, to learn of its history and engage in its calming, albeit minor, flow of water.
The good news in York Region is that TRCA is committed to protection of the valleys. And the creation of Rouge Valley Urban Wilderness Park http://www.rougepark.com/ is further evidence of the understanding that waterfronts are more than expanses of lakes.
Stay tuned over the next several weeks.
Mark Inglis is a landscape architect and urban designer who has presented his visions of waterfronts at conferences and to students of landscape architecture. His waterfront works have been expressed in three Canadian provinces, Central America and the Caribbean.