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 construction.
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 vision.
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 North Bay.”
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.