After years of planning and consultations, long-awaited improvements to Capreol's riverfront are almost complete.
A new paved walking path, trees, classic design light standards, road improvements, ramp access to the Vermillion River beach and sitting benches were all installed in time for the community's 100th anniversary and Capreol Days festival, with a few finishing touches like lockstone, a picnic area and another access ramp to the river nearing completion.
“The plan was to have everything ready for Capreol's anniversary, but the bulk of it is finished and, I have to say, this is one of the best vistas in the whole of the Sudbury area,” said Kris Longston, manager of Community and Strategic Planning, Department of Growth and Infrastructure for the City of Greater Sudbury.
“When you look at a design on paper, you don't really have a sense of the size of the scale. I stand here and it's significant.”
All together, the project cost $1.8 million. The construction had to incorporate water and sewer improvements along King Street as well. Longston explained crews found a lot of aging infrastructure that had to be upgraded along with surface improvements.
King Street is one of the original streets in the community.
He was at the riverfront on July 25 and was delighted to see most of the work completed, as well as people using the walkways and the beach.
In 1986, a berm was constructed along the Vermillion River and Lakeshore Street to stop flooding. At the time, Longston said the berm was erected with only flood control in mind.
Before it was there, the beach included trees, a playground and public dock.
“I've seen pictures, and it was beautiful, but the berm had to go in or the residents and community would lose flood insurance,” he said.
The top of the berm was levelled and a paved pathway was installed, which follows the the entire length of the riverfront. Trees and shrubs have been planted as well to add to the asthetics.
When Front Street is included, it creates a two-kilometre loop.
Beach access improvements include a new paved ramp on the right side all the way to the beach, as well as a sitting area next to the ramp with concrete pads fashioned to resemble train wheels. The seating area is also designed to give a commanding view of the marshlands and opposing shore.
On King Street, land was purchased from Frank Mazzuca for a lifeguard shack, lockstone sidewalks and more public garden space.
In the south end of Lakeshore Street, there is a natural green space with large rock outcroppings and trees, and there will be more benches, picnic tables and a large seating area. There will be some parking there where people can come to have picnics and have walk-up access to the river.
The actual beach was not touched.
As with any project, concerns over construction and materials used were raised. Sections of the berm were sprayed with hydroseeding and sod was planted, some of which contained what looked like wheats instead of grass. Longston couldn't say for sure why that was used, but said it was probably due to the project needing something sturdy that would hold to the banks.
As well, there were concerns over vandalism. He said the city could never have 100 per cent safeguards over destruction, but pointed to improvements like more lighting that would help deter vandalism.
“There are light standards going up, which are half lights and street lights for improved lighting, as well as benches being bolted and cemented down. It's all we can do,” he said.
“The plan is to attract people to the downtown, get them back to the riverfront, and create a loop for visitors to follow leading up to the railroad museum and beyond.”
The project has been ongoing since 2011, as part of the City of Greater Sudbury Town Centre Community Improvement Plan. At the time, the city was looking at making improvements to the business area and was approached by the Capreol Community Action Network over the riverfront. They had a public meeting and waterfront improvements were on the top of the list.
They continued with the community's interest in improving the waterfront, and support for downtown and ecotourism activities was further expressed during the network’s visioning session in 2012. From there, critical improvements were identified and verified during a project kickoff open house in November of 2013. Those improvements included making the waterfront accessible, upgrading recreational and tourism opportunities, and redesigning the downtown with a railroad theme.
The process for redesigning downtown Capreol’s waterfront began in the spring and a conceptual design was presented to the community for input during a project open house in June of 2014.
“We had two years of extensive consultations with the community and stakeholders,” Longston said.
Improvements also included elements from the 2014 Provincial Policy Statement, the Growth Plan for Northern Ontario, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (2005), the City of Greater Sudbury Sustainable Mobility Plan, and the City of Greater Sudbury Parks, Open Space & Leisure Master Plan Review.
The improvement plans are not over. Longston explained the city is in consultations for ecotourism opportunities on the other side of the river.
“We are looking at that for later phases of the plan as a way to drive tourism in the town,” he said.