By Mackenzie Myatt
On Wednesday, June 5th, more than 100 people attended and were highly engaged in the NS Department of Lands and Forests information presentation and public consultation on the redevelopment of Lawrencetown Beach at Lawrencetown Community Centre. The meeting came only days after community residents and area surfers had gathering for a paint-in protest at the main beach building.
Landscape Architect Clinton Pinks explained that Lands and Forests was in the conceptual planning stage, and went through all the elements planners were considering before work began-- dune protection, beach access, change rooms, showers, potable water, surfing facilities, trail access, and parking.
Pinks said Lands and Forests is aiming to have tenders for construction this fall. He acknowledged that sand had clogged up the shower drains, and that the building no longer met accessibility and gender-neutral guidelines. When asked about the facilities available for this summer, Pinks said, "The water is on and 1-2 showers and toilets will be running." Addressing concerns that Lands and Forests might soon tear down the newly painted beach house because of rotten wood, Pinks assured the crowd, "Nothing will be torn down until tenders are confirmed and a plan has been finalized.”
One of the major concerns is the repeated storm damage to the 207 Highway at the western end of the beach. But Pinks said that reinforcing the highway was the responsibility of the Department of Transportation Infrastructure Renewal.
(A TIR media relations advisor told the Cooperator later on that the department was "reviewing options with an engineering consultant and with the Department of Lands and Forestry to mitigate the effects of storms on infrastructure at Lawrencetown Beach. Both a seawall and a change in direction of the road are options that are being considered but no decisions have been made at this point.")
There were also questions about the sustainability of the project. Pinks said he hoped the new facilities would last 20-30 years, but admitted that maintenance of these facilities was not included in the budget. While unclear on the exact numbers, MLA Kevin Murphy told the crowd that a significant amount of funds had been earmarked for maintenance.
Pinks presented several other ideas for improving beach facilities, including moving the surfer’s parking lot, expanding the Atlantic View Trail next to the beach house, paving this section of the trail, making space for a cyclist rest stop and bike and surfboard rental vendors, and installing an elevated deck with picnic tables and seating. He also hoped to add two lifeguard viewing platforms and maintain one vault toilet.
Pinks said that Lands and Forests would like to rebuild the dunes to protect the road better, but there is no sand in the area to use. The province permitted the builders of Scotia Square to remove sand from the area for the downtown project.
After the question period, the audience got to give feedback on blueprints for the plan. The pictures quickly filled with sticky notes about the lack of parking and about maintaining access to the point in relation to plans for protecting the road. The point off of the headland is where the best waves break, and safe access is critical.
Rob Spicer from Porter’s Lake has been surfing for more than 35 years, and was a founding member of NS Surfing Association and a past president of the Canadian Surfing Association. After the meeting, he told the Cooperator that safe access to the point was his main concern and that Lands and Forests and TIR must work very closely together to develop solutions. “As for parking, they missed the point completely. We need more, not less.”