A wood pier jutting over the water with benches and lights at night, a concession with a rooftop patio overlooking the water, a pavilion for bands — the public has lots of ideas for Sand Point Beach.
Why don’t Ward 7 byelection candidates?
Sand Point is a beach in a manufacturing city. In a region almost surrounded by water, it’s the only beach in the city. It’s an oasis, and it’s unique.
Many days, the water is clear enough to see the sand on the bottom. To the west is lush Peche Island in the Detroit River. To the east is Lake St. Clair, all water and sky.
On a cool day this week, the sun still warmed the sand. There was a sailboat on the lake, like a picture. Two small fishing boats drifted lazily in the river. Cyclists stopped to take in the view.
Along with Ganatchio Park and Stop 26 Beach, which isn’t actually a beach but is named after the historic streetcar transfer station, it’s part of five lovely acres waterfront.
It’s a gift. We’re lucky to have it.
“Easily the most popular beach in the city,” extols the city’s website. “A veritable magnet” for sun worshippers and those seeking relief from the sweltering streets.
But it’s almost a dump. A chain link fence lines the property off Riverside Drive like a scar, collecting garbage. That used to gall former Ward 7 councillor Irek Kusmierczyk.
The grass is patchy. Weeds fill the planters and grow between the paving stones around the dated and shuttered concession. The picnic tables are weathered.
It’s not just that it was closed half the summer because of the pandemic. It’s been this way for years.
And two weeks after it closed this year, buffeted by a north wind and high water, seaweed hung from the railing around the terrace where the concession is and mud had dried on the paving stones.
“It looks a bit run-down,” said Ian Murray, who was visiting from Kingsville with his wife Kara and three children.
“What does it take to make it presentable?” asked Brian Lucier, sitting on a picnic table enjoying the sun.
“It’s like having a nice shiny Corvette,” said Glenn Hillman, who stopped there while cycling, “and you drive it all year and it gets dirty and you don’t take care of it.”
What about a wood pier, with benches and lights at night? he suggested. What about a concession with a rooftop patio overlooking the water?
What about a pavilion for bands? Ward 7 resident Stephen Nickart offered.
What about rentals? asked Ian Murray. Banana boats! Kara added.
“It has a lot of potential,” she said. “It would be beautiful with some landscaping.”
Former city parks director Phil Roberts included what he called a “rather lofty recommendation” for Sand Point in the 2016 parks master plan. He wanted to designate it a Blue Flag Beach, an internationally recognized designation awarded to beaches that meet strict criteria for accessibility, environmental management, education and safety. There are only 29 in Canada. Sarnia, Grand Bend and Bayfield have Blue Flag beaches. Why can’t we?
City council named Sand Point a priority during a strategic planning meeting last year. The city tests the water quality there and hires a lifeguard to supervise swimmers.
But there’s no money in Windsor’s capital budget for Sand Point until 2024, when $227,500 is budgeted to hire a consultant to conduct an environmental assessment on moving the beach farther east, away from the precipitous drop and strong current near the shipping channel, and redeveloping it.
Sand Point isn’t only a Ward 7 issue. It’s an issue for the whole city.
So why aren’t candidates talking about it?
They talk about parks. Many talk about quality of life. But only two of the 12 candidates, Mike Malott and Greg Lemay, include Sand Point in their platforms. It’s been mentioned once, by Lemay, in two debates.
Malott talked about a small amphitheatre, a covered pavilion for shade, barbecues and leasing the concession to different restaurants.
“The possibilities are endless,” he said.
Lemay wants to see the site cleaned up, fresh sand added, canoe rentals and updated bathrooms. He canoed with his daughter from Sand Point to Peche Island several years ago for a picnic.
“It’s something you don’t get to do every day,” he said. “I think that’s something that improves the quality of life.”
That’s what voters should be hearing.