By Charlie Senack
There are concerns Westboro Beach could stay closed longer than expected after supply-chain issues caused a recent delay in construction.
The beach was fenced off in June for a revitalization project that seeks to expand shoreline amenities, move the main parking lot to the other side of the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway, and build a new park pavilion.
The Westboro Beach Community Association was excited about the plan at the time, saying a one-year beach closure would be worth it in the end. But now, with summer almost over and construction just beginning, questions are being raised as to why the beach couldn’t have been open for at least a portion of the summer, and if the construction delays could move the beach’s reopening timeline.
“The general feeling we had is that it was sort of a lost summer, but for no good reason,” said Len Fardella, co-president of the Westboro Beach Community Association. “Everyone was really excited about what the NCC is proposing to do. It looks fantastic and there is a price to pay for progress, but then fences went up and nothing happened.”
The park closure meant no traditional summer events and activities could take place at the beach this year, following two summers where the community wasn’t able to hold some of its functions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Westboro Beach Community Association was hoping to hold their annual beach opening fun day before access to the site was gated off, but that wasn’t possible.
In a statement sent to Kitchissippi Times, the National Capital Commission (NCC) said the beach closure and fences were needed for safety and security reasons. They said work on the beach would begin in late August, and that timelines for completion have not been changed.
“The Westboro Beach construction has been delayed due to the difficult current conditions and supply-chain issues. Components of the project are underway,” said Sofia Benjelloun, a spokesperson for the NCC.
“The decision to temporarily close off the Westboro beach was made in collaboration with the City of Ottawa,” Benjelloun added. “The closure is necessary for security reasons, due to the surrounding areas being used for construction staging.”
Fardella is optimistic the NCC will stick to their word, but he wants to know what milestones they need to reach—and when they need to reach them—to ensure construction stays on track.
“How is it progressing? In the winter, are they going to be able to give us an update and say things are going well and feeling really confident?” he said. “By the spring, we should hopefully know. We would rather not be surprised. If they are still struggling and supply-chain and labour issues continue to plague everyone else, are there ways they can maybe do something so the beach is [partially] opening? We need to start thinking now.”
A small portion of the beachfront and Ottawa River can be accessed on the west side of the beach. Fardella said the trek through a small wooded area has been popular among people who are looking to soak up some sun in Westboro.
While the main beach has been closed for the summer, that has not deterred some people from lounging on the sand or dipping their toes into the water. Over the Canada Day weekend, before construction equipment was brought into the site, some beachgoers came and took the fences down.
“It showed the frustration of people,” said Fardella. “They undid the fence and had a nice Canada Day there. Then they closed it up again and the next day people opened it up again.”
The Westboro Beach Community Association says their priority now will be to work with the NCC on securing clear timelines and updates on how the project is going. They still stress appreciation for what the NCC is doing for the beach, but want to ensure the space can be utilized by the public again as soon as possible.