Port authority wants your input on plan to turn Fisherman's Pier into a public space

Decades ago it was an amusement park, not the Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority is looking for ways to turn Fisherman's Pier into a place where people will want to gather.

Spokesperson says site that used to host amusement park is a 'diamond in the rough'

The Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority is asking for the public to weigh in on its plans to redevelop Fisherman's Pier. (Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority)

The Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA) is looking to transform the gravelly wasteland that is Fisherman's Pier into the kind of place where people will want to gather — and they're looking for public input.

"We think there's a lot of potential but it's clearly under-utilized now with a lot of gravel areas, overgrown vegetation," explained Larissa Fenn, HOPA's director of public affairs.

"We think it's sort of a diamond in the rough down there with a lot of potential."

The port authority is hoping to hear from the community and has launched an online tool mapping out different zones around the pier and encouraging people to think about what they would want to see.

For decades the area surrounding the Hamilton Harbour shipping channel has gone under-utilized, Fenn added, although thousands of cyclists and pedestrians pass through it while using the Waterfront Trail.

Now the idea is to turn it into a people place, complete with landscaping, better benches, some shade and amenities for people who still use the waterfront area to cast a fishing line, said Fenn.

Providing the basics for some recreational arts and culture programming such as the lighting and power access needed for a pop up markets using shipping containers is another possibility.

"We're not imagining big developments there," said Fenn. "We see it as primarily a seasonal space for … pedestrian and cyclist traffic that's passing by anyway."

A past as an amusement park

The pier and surrounding beach strip do have a history as a place where people got together to have fun.

Ward 5 Councillor Chad Collins said he's among the Hamiltonians that may remember when the area was home to an amusement park.

The beach strip near Fisherman's Pier used to be home to an amusement park. (Hamilton-Oshawa Port Authority)

He said his office has fielded calls from people asking about increasing public access to the area for years.

"If you're down on site right now, underneath the lift bridge or on the pier there are a lot of signs that suggest you shouldn't be there."

But while there's no doubt people want to make better use of the pier, Collins pointed out safety needs to be taken into consideration.

The councillor said he's seen pictures of the pier at certain times of year where it's almost completely covered in water from waves or high lake levels.

Fenn said the port is aware of the limitations to the site, saying its focus is on providing something for the summertime when the pier is at its best.

"It gets pretty wicked down there in the winter," she noted.

An outbuilding along Fisherman's Pier was coated in oddly-shaped icicles in January this year. (Dan Taekema/CBC News)

Collins said one other safety consideration is the risk of items flying off vehicles motoring above on the skyway.

"They've seen everything from coolers to tires to you name it," said Collins. "If it's coming down from that height at that kind of speed it can do some damage, not only to personal property, but to people."

Still, the councillor said he also see the pier's potential, especially if some of the fences, warning signs and barriers can be removed to make it more inviting.

"It's a great location. It's right on the water, you're on the canal, there's a lot of open space there," he explained. "I think whatever the port can do with federal partners to make that more of a people place and more inviting is a positive step."

Getting up close to big boats

Both the councillor and port representative said one thing that makes the pier special is the chance it offers for residents to get up close and personal with the massive ships that use the city's port, as well as Hamilton's maritime history, including the beach canal lighthouse.

To that end, the port says the project at the pier would include gateway signs on Eastport Drive to showcase the port, the commodities that ship through it and the part they play in the city's economy.

The port is also offering a public walkabout at the site at 10 a.m. on Sunday September 29.