Beach enhancement special report: Rotary Club of Grand Bend

Ron Hunt and Craig Scott
As told to Casey Lessard

Ron: Rotary is behind this project. We think it should go ahead.
Craig: It becomes a matter of attracting people. Kincardine has just done a fabulous job in its beachfront. Goderich, 10 years ago, built a beach that wasn’t even there and made it accessible. Port Stanley is pouring money into its beach. You can’t just sit back and think people are going to come. Just because you think you have the best beach doesn’t mean it’s going to stay the best.
If you look at all of the small towns across Canada, they all want to have something to promote. Many of them do not. Many of them don’t have a special project to dig their teeth into. They don’t have a waterfront. They don’t have a park in the middle of town. Grand Bend has the most fantastic natural beach and facility anybody could dream of and the town itself had not embraced that project. We felt for the betterment of the community at large, that if we could start the project and bring in like-minded partners like the foundation, like the town of Lambton Shores to support this, we could really do something terrific for the community.
Ron: We want to have the best facilities down there, but we want to have the best water we can possibly have. If there are problems with the water, we want it identified and we want something done about it. We were the ones who told Lambton Shores about Blue Flag (a designation recognizing water quality, environmental education and information, environmental management, and safety and other services).
Craig: They’ve come to realize that if they can achieve the Blue Flag designation, it’s fantastic for the beach. It’s a feather in your cap if you can get it.
A consensus among the club was that we should finish the beach project that had been started at the time of the Canada Summer Games. At the same time as we started that project, the natural part is that you have to have a water quality project to go with it. The focus was, if we do a beach enhancement project and a water quality project, that should stimulate the main street project. We don’t have much control over that; that’s really up to the landowners.
Ron: Hopefully it will lead to a better main street. That’s a whole other project. Make it an attraction so visitors can come. We have something great now. Keep it the same way only make it better.
This is the third year we’ve been putting $20,000 into the beachfront. That’s doubled by the Community Foundation, and then it’s all doubled by the municipality. Our money has been going into this pile, but we haven’t really had anything to put it into. We put the money into the elevator, which should be completed shortly.
Craig: There are people in wheelchairs who don’t have access to seeing the view from the upper level, and that’s a natural place for them. They’re out of the way and not trapped at ground level. We felt that’s a very positive thing. At all the meetings we’ve been to, no one has ever said anything negative about putting that elevator in.
Ron: Hopefully the technology will get around the sand. Consultants are looking into that, and hopefully it won’t be a problem.
Craig: We’ve had one other holdup, and that’s that we don’t own Government Road and we don’t own the pier yet. They are an integral part of the plan. The federal government won’t sell you anything that isn’t in good condition. It’s my understanding there’s X amount of money to be spent on the pier. That’s spent by the federal government before you take ownership of it.
Ron: Rotary’s not in the business of the ongoing maintenance of something. We do the capital expenditure. We raised all the money for the Rotary trail that goes down to the Pinery. However, it was turned over to Lambton Shores, so it’s theirs. We help keep it clean and help with the benches. Otherwise, it’s their responsibility.
Craig: We have the finest public beach in southwestern Ontario, and we want to make it better. Our thought was that we’ve let people down on the facility. We have to build on that. Grand Bend itself is a beach destination, and we want to make it a better experience.