While walking along the boardwalk that runs parallel to Bancroft Drive along the Minnow Lake shoreline, Ward 11 Coun. Bill Leduc pointed to a number of potential safety hazards.
A retaining wall along the path has partially caved in, leaving blocks scattered along the path, and a short bridge was cordoned off earlier this year after a young kid wiped out on his bike.
This section in particular has seen more damage than the balance of the boardwalk due to a clogged culvert flooding the area.
“These are all hazards,” Leduc said, lightly kicking a retaining wall block to demonstrate how it was loose and on the verge of collapsing onto the path.
“This has been going on for years,” he said. “If this (boardwalk) was in better condition, you’d see a lot more activity down here, so enhancements have to be made to the trail.”
Leduc brought his case to the attention of his colleagues on city council during Tuesday night’s meeting, during which they approved a motion calling for staff to prepare a business case for its repair for consideration during 2022 budget deliberations.
After viewing images of the pathway during the meeting, CAO Ed Archer said that seeing the condition the boardwalk is currently in “certainly prompts some reflection of whether there are other examples of similar condition infrastructure.”
Archer said staff will have to take a closer look “at literally hundreds of potential capital projects to make sure that we are capturing examples like this and treating them in a consistent manner.”
The Minnow Lake boardwalk was constructed approximately 30 years ago as a project of the Minnow Lake Restoration Group, said John Lindsay, president of the environmental charity.
It served as a model for the larger Bell Park Walkway and Jim Gordon Boardwalk, and Linsday said it’s been an ongoing battle for the past several years to convince the city to maintain it.
“Year after year we’d say to the city, ‘Come take a look at this,’” he said, adding they’d hem and haw about it and nothing would get done.
Volunteers with the Minnow Lake Restoration Group have taken care of some maintenance along the path, and have undertaken an effort to rid it of the invasive plant species, phragmites, but Lindsay said there’s only so much they can do.
Although he finds it odd that Leduc had to request a business case from the city for the path’s basic maintenance, Lindsay said he’s thankful the area’s councillor was able to get his foot in the door.
Leduc said he has received numerous phone calls from residents young and old about the boardwalk’s degradation and that its repair has become a popular request.
“Everybody loves this pathway,” he said. “It really shows off Minnow Lake, and it’s unfortunate that this has technically been shut down for the entire summer.”
Although city council approved a business case request for the Minnow Lake boardwalk, two additional business case requests of Leduc’s were defeated during Tuesday’s meeting.
This included requests related to the creation of a boat launch at Moonlight Beach and a skating oval at Minnow Lake. During Tuesday’s debate, councillors noted there are 330 lakes in Greater Sudbury and that residents in other wards want to see other projects undertaken.
The following day, Leduc said he was disappointed in his colleagues’ decision, but that he wasn’t going to give up on these projects.
The boat launch request relates to both recreation and safety, in that it would allow emergency personnel a designated place away from the public beach to launch their watercraft.
The skating oval, he said, would help bring the neighbourhood back to its heyday of the ’50s and ’60s, when much more took place on the lake, including winter carnivals.
“This is the heart of Minnow Lake, right here,” he said, motioning to the body of water. “In the winter, what a sight it is to come by and it’s lit up with a few lights where people can come walk down and use it, not only as a skating rink but to walk as another path for exercise.
“We’re promoting a healthier community, and yet I couldn’t get council to recognize that this is creating a healthier community here in Ward 11 and for Sudbury.”
Outdoor recreation has become even more important during the pandemic, he said, adding that the increase in outdoor activity of recent months is expected to remain strong.
“That’s why it’s important we create more outdoor spaces,” he said. “When your indoor spaces get shut down we have an alternative.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.