Windsor

Riverfront Festival Plaza fencing riles residents

Fencing designed to prevent unauthorized entry to Riverfront Festival Plaza has upset Windsorites looking to access the area.

Residents say the fence prevents access to sidewalks and public washrooms

Dave Peltier says he's seen people urinate in bushes because they can't access public washrooms within Riverfront Festival Plaza. (Tahmiza Aziz/CBC)

Some Windsor residents are up in arms over portions of Riverfront Festival Plaza fencing they say blocks access to the sidewalk, as well as public washrooms. 

The fence was most recently erected as part of infrastructure for the 2019 Windsor Bluesfest, which took place this past weekend, with additional performances expected to continue this Friday and Saturday. 

Dave Peltier lives on Riverside Drive. He says when it rains, pedestrians near Festival Plaza during events are forced to walk through mud puddles. 

As a result of limited access to public washrooms, Peltier added that he's also seen some people urinating in public. 

Ticketed events like Bluesfest Windsor prevent unauthorized access to Riverfront Festival Plaza. (Bluesfest Windsor)

"I sit on my balcony, I face the river and what do I see? People urinating in the bushes," said Peltier. "We shouldn't have to see that."

Peltier said he's asked organizers to move the fence — and add extra portable toilets — for the past three years.

He added that his concerns aren't with the Bluesfest, an event he described as "a beautiful thing."

"Just tweak it up a little bit. You shouldn't have to walk through a mud puddle when it rains. We should have access to washrooms for use in the park," he said. 

Pokemon Go player Liam McMahon described event fencing near Riverfront Festival Plaza as "inconvenient." (Tahmina Aziz/CBC)

Peltier wasn't the only Windsorite upset by the plaza's event fencing. 

Liam McMahon regularly visits the Windsor riverfront while playing Pokémon Go. He described the fencing as "inconvenient."

"I think it's rather inconvenient for people have to use the washroom immediately after parking," he said. "Downtown's parking isn't very accessible either if you're just trying to use a washroom."

City responds to concerns

According to City of Windsor community development manager Pam LaBute, part of the problem is the design of Festival Plaza.

She explained that the plaza has a "small entranceway between the backside of the staircase to the stage and the electrical room, and on the south side is the washroom entrance."

If organizers were to leave the entranceway open, they would have "no way of securing the site."

"So for the safety and security of both parties, they actually … block that area off," said LaBute. "Much like certain festivals and this particular one, we close off the waterfront and reroute the traffic up the upper part of the pathway due to safety reasons."

Still, LaBute acknowledged concerns about washroom-access, adding that work on the plaza's retaining wall is scheduled to begin in the fall. 

There are plans to bring a report to council that would outline possible designs and implementation ideas "for changes to Festival Plaza to make it more user-friendly on a 365-day basis with additional washrooms brought into it."

... I do know that festival organizers do try and open up the area as much as possible when we don't have ticketed events.- Pam LaBute, City of Windsor manager of community development

"We're still working on design, so it's going to change the footprint of how that area looks, but allow for more washroom availability," said LaBute.

The total number of additional washrooms hasn't yet been determined.

In the meantime, LaBute said visitors will be able to access to public washrooms outside The Bistro At the River restaurant and at the Aylmer Comfort Station — approximately 10 minutes away.

LaBute also said that she couldn't imagine that festival organizers wouldn't accommodate an emergency washroom visit if they were asked. 

"I can't speak on their behalf because of how this security is, but I do know that festival organizers do try and open up the area as much as possible when we don't have ticketed events," she added. 

Festivals like Bluesfest are ticketed events that require proof of admission; other events like Ribfest allow visits without ticket purchases. 

With files from Tahmina Aziz

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