By Charlie Senack
Parts of Westboro Beach could reopen to the public this summer despite delays in its revitalization schedule.
The National Capital Commission (NCC) blamed supply chain shortages and labor issues for the delays.
“There have been a series of things over the last couple of years that have had an impact on the construction schedule,” said Tobi Nussbaum, the NCC’s boss at a news conference. “While we’re still confident that much of the building will be constructed this year, there will be important landscaping and other related parts of the project that will only be done next year.”
The beach closed in spring 2022 to make way for a new modern pavilion with restaurant and community space, historic interpretation of the site, river lookouts, children’s play areas, outdoor showers and gender-neutral and fully accessible washrooms. Work was supposed to have wrapped up this year but completion is now expected in 2024.
The Westboro Beach Community Association has always been a big supporter of the project, but was disappointed when construction fencing went up last spring and no work began. The beach remained fenced off to the public for months despite work not getting underway until later in summer.
The community association has been in talks with the NCC and are hopeful access to at least part of the beach will continue to be retained for the summer. Construction fencing has been moved which has resulted in about 60 per cent of the space opening up.
“The only thing that’s fenced in now is the offices around the pavilion,” said Len Fardella, co-president of the Westboro Beach Community Association. “The sand area has opened up and you can essentially keep walking through the forested area which then takes you onto the trail along the parkway.”
The hill, a popular destination for sunbathers and sunset watchers, has also reopened.
“It’s a really important part of the community and the broader community,” said Fardella. “Even if it’s not officially open (this year) as a beach, it’s a place where people can go and relax… and kids can play in the sand.”
The fencing was moved sometime during the winter to allow greater access to the Kichi Sibi Winter Trail. It also allowed for kids to go to tobogganing on the hill. Bales of hay were placed around the site and padding was put on trees to keep the sledders safe.
The Westboro Beach Community Association said they are in talks with Kitchissippi ward councilor Jeff Leiper’s office to see if Ottawa Public Health can resume water testing at the beach. Even if not officially open, Fardella said many people will flock to the water on warm days.
Fardella and the community association will be meeting with the NCC on May 3, to talk about next steps. He said they expect the beach area will not close again after a “lost summer.”
“They (the NCC) made a really big misstep in the summer, people were really annoyed by that and it was communicated,” he said. “They recovered nicely over the winter and it’s worked out well. And we are expecting that same approach for the summer. I think everyone will be happy if they are able to do that.”
Saying the beach area remains open, the community association is planning events for June and September. Saying all goes well, they’d like to also host a winter carnival at the site next January.