A waterfront redevelopment project in
Sturgeon Falls is being touted as a means to enhance tourism and
stimulate the downtown core.
The $10-million Minnehaha Bay project,
which is nearing completion, includes a 6,700-square-foot building,
new boat slips, a boardwalk and outdoor ampitheatre.
“The entire objective, when we looked
at this project, was to stimulate tourism by increasing the volume of
boats on (the Sturgeon) River and to enhance the quality of life for
our residents,” said West Nipissing Mayor Joanne Savage. “We
wanted to see some type of link by boat and bring people to the
downtown area since it is so close.”
The new building houses a marina
operated by a private business, KOA Campground. Twiggs Coffee Roasters, a North Bay-based business, will operate an outlet there
and remaining space is available for a retail outlet.
“We foresee having a venture there
that is sports-related and fits well with the marina and recreational
activities,” she said. “We want to enhance what we have in the
town but want it to be different as well. It could be outdoor
clothing and gear or even bike and kayak rentals.”
The project was funded through the
municipality ($1.5 million), and by the federal and provincial
governments and private partners.
“If you are able to get the interests
of local partners, and get local champions, a project becomes more
successful,” Savage said.
Sturgeon Falls Brush came on board and
did the construction and the business agreed to operate the facility
once it was completed. However, it pulled out of operating the
facility due to other commitments but continued with the
The municipality looked for another
option for the facility and was close to having a deal with a
restaurant operator before it, too, pulled out.
“So we thought do we need just one
operator or can we enhance it further?” she said.
The marina started operating in
mid-July and Twiggs is expected to be open by early September.
Minnehaha Bay is located close to the
town’s downtown and has long been an area used by the locals. Prior
to the project, an old building was located there along with a few
docks. It was also a favourite swimming spot but that activity has
stopped due to the addition of the boat slips.
When Weyerhaeuser announced the closure
of its mill in the town, a committee looked at different economic
development issues for the town and the bay became part of the
The actual project was to be spread out
over several years and included different phases such as a floating
walkway that would wind underneath the train trestle. That was put on
hold due to engineering issues.
A local group came forward a few years
ago with a plan to connect the sides of the river with a pedestrian
bridge in the shape of a sturgeon.
“All venues can be pursued with local
money and interest,” Savage said. “If we work together, we can
make it happen.”
The project was started about four
years ago and the municipality has yet to put signage on the highway
and in the town directing traffic to the area. The mayor said that is
planned for the near future.
Community groups, she said, have
expressed an interest in holding events at Minnehaha Bay and next
year’s Canada Day fireworks display will be held there.
“We even want to look at the Chief
Commanda coming in, but, we have to look at the depth of the river
along with the opening. There are issues there but it is not
impossible,” Savage said. “If not that boat, then maybe another
one can be operating. We are surrounded by water and there are a
multitude of opportunities when you look at the lodges and camps in
the area. We can also link to communities like Callander Bay and
One amenity that won’t be located at
Minnehaha Bay is a chip stand.
“We are the French fry capital
already and we don’t need another,” she said.