Beach project begins

Planners move to block splash pad from wind, make more attractive for pedestrians

Story and photo by Casey Lessard
Diagram courtesy EDA Collaborative

Snowbirds and visitors won’t recognize Grand Bend’s beach next summer. The beach enhancement project will be finished in June 2009, and the planners have made some major changes that should ease some of the concerns residents had at meetings last year.
Among the highlights: the splash pad will be moved east of the bathhouse and out of wind range; a renewed wood boardwalk with seating areas will stretch from the pier to north of the condo building; dune grass will line the boardwalk and reduce sand blowoff toward Main Street; Government Road has been demolished and will be rebuilt with a new design and name.{+}
The $3.5-million project started several weeks ago, and fundraising co-chairs Jim Southcott and Dr. Jim Jean are seeking donors in exchange for naming rights for each piece of the beach project. The most significant would be Government Road for $200,000; smaller portions can be named for a minimum $25,000 donation. They are also seeking smaller donations from $1 up as they try to raise $1.5-million of the project’s cost.
“This will help mitigate the tax burden to the municipality,” Southcott says, “and (naming rights) will leave a legacy for people interested in Grand Bend.”
The project is an ambitious one, and contractor McLean Taylor has the reins. The lead and many of the contractors have close ties to the area. Southcott is eager to see the end result.
“This is going to be a place to come,” he says. “This will be where families will want to bring their kids. There’s going to be a lot more amenities, with a splash pad for little kids, a play area, a terrific boardwalk with gazebos to sit and watch our tremendous sunsets.
“And it should encourage the people on the main drag to take a second look at their properties and see how they can improve and extend their summer activities into the shoulder months.”
The project’s completion is the last step in the municipality’s quest to achieve Blue Flag status for the beach, he says. Dr. Jim Jean notes the incorporation of dune grass along the boardwalk will be an important part of that accreditation.
“We’ve had great success with dune grass where it’s been planted and it has retained the beach,” Jean says, noting it has been used elsewhere in Grand Bend. “I think that will add to the beauty of the project. One of the facets in the Blue Flag designation is that you try to maintain an environmentally sensitive area on your beach.”
“The beach defines Grand Bend,” Southcott affirms. “We want to make it more people friendly and better for families. We want to make it so our sunsets can be enjoyed to their fullest.”
Jean agrees.
“We’ve always had a great resource here, and this enhances our ability to use that resource.”