Public shouldn't be blocked from strolling Burlington Canal piers, mayor says

Transport Canada plans to install metal gates on the piers this spring. Both Hamilton and Burlington's mayors say it's a bad idea.

Transport Canada plans to install metal gates this spring, citing safety issues

The piers alongside the Burlington Canal in 2019 were coated with ice after a 2019 ice storm. Mayor Fred Eisenberger says gates can be closed when it's dangerous, but should be open at other times. (Dan Taekema/CBC News)

Hamilton's mayor is calling on the federal government to reconsider a plan to install swing gates blocking access to two Burlington Canal piers that are popular for photos, strolls and boat watching.

Mayor Fred Eisenberger has written to Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, telling him residents will be upset if Ottawa installs metal barriers on either side of the canal.

The piers are near Hamilton's popular waterfront trail that runs along the Lake Ontario shore. They're also near the Burlington Canal lift bridge, and people stand on the piers to watch large, eye-catching vessels enter Hamilton Harbour. 

"This is a popular spot for walkers, sight seers, photographers and people fishing, not only by local residents of the Beach Strip community, but by people throughout Hamilton and Burlington and the wider region," Eisenberger wrote in the Jan. 28 letter.

"As you can imagine, the public can be expected to react negatively to this."

Passersby wave at a ship as it heads under the Burlington Canal Lift Bridge on May 20, 2019. (Dan Taekema/CBC)
Mike Ryan of Burlington took a walk as waves crashed over the pier behind him during a flood in 2017. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Transport Canada has cited safety concerns, including ice and high waves, as a reason to install metal barriers at the shoreline. The work is planned for the spring.

The department, which installed warning signs in the fall, said it knows people use the piers for recreational purposes, but it's a commercial site.

"Transport Canada has observed an increase in pedestrian activity at this commercial site and has deemed these safety related measures necessary to ensure public safety at the piers," the department said in an email. 

"Transport Canada is aware that the Burlington Canal piers has been used in the past by local residents for recreational purposes. However, this is not the intended purpose of this commercial site. As this property does not have the necessary infrastructure to mitigate the possibility of personal injury, limiting access to this site is necessary, particularly during inclement conditions that impact the site such as periods of high water levels, and ice build-up over the winter months."

(City of Hamilton)

Eisenberger says he understands the safety concerns, but thinks there are other options, including a gate that can be closed in bad weather. 

Marianne Meed Ward, mayor of Burlington, says she isn't a fan of the federal government's plan either.

Meed Ward says she met with former transport minister, Marc Garneau, to discourage permanent gates, and hopes to meet with Alghabra too.

In a December letter, she suggested other options to fulfil both public usage and safety concerns, such as the bollards the city installed at Spencer Smith Park. 

The piers are "one of the ways people enjoy our beautiful and wonderful waterfronts," she said. "They're actually a part of our regional waterfront parks plan that is a $50-million plan with Halton Region."



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