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Kirwan pushes for Kalmo Beach improvements

A business case that stipulates the costs of design and study work for Kalmo Beach will be drafted by city administration for 2023 budget deliberations, which, if approved, would help establish the basis for a public fundraising campaign
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A map of the Kalmo Beach Master Plan, for the municipal park on Whitson Lake near Val Caron.

Rather than allow the Kalmo Beach Master Plan gather dust, Ward 5 Coun. Robert Kirwan put forward a successful motion for city administration to take action.

“There’s been a lot of talk over the last five or six years about developing Kalmo Beach into an all-season place where people can use the natural environment for much of the year,” he said during this week’s community services committee meeting.

“I don’t want to see this report sit on a shelf and just become a guide, and I think this would at least move it forward.”

Kirwan’s motion, passed unanimously, asks city staff to prepare a business case for 2023 budget deliberations to provide funding for preliminary design and study work for what is proposed in the master plan, as well as cost estimates for various components.

With these variables figured out, Kirwan said it’ll be easier to get the community fired up about fundraising to pay for park improvements, which he suggested should be an easy sell.

“We’re in a position now where there are some people who have lived in the valley for many years, and their ancestors have been there from the beginning, and they want to give something back to the community,” he said.

“In discussing this with a number of individuals from the Valley, there’s a good opportunity that there’s some funding for this park.”

Kalmo Beach is a municipal park on the north shore of Whitson Lake near Val Caron, and the master plan is the culmination of a public consultation process that began with an on-site meeting with approximately 50 area residents in August 2019 and continued online, where 33 people completed a survey.

Key proposals in the master plan include:

  • Improved circulation and parking, with a new route to the beach furthest west being proposed, among other improvements such as expanded parking.
  • Tiered decking, to allow an area for picnicking and other passive activities while overlooking Whitson Lake at what the report describes as one of the park’s best viewpoints.
  • A new concept for the boat launch area, which includes a boardwalk that can follow the shoreline and connect all of the beaches on one level. A new building would offer space for accessible washrooms and change rooms, a canteen and space for canoe, kayak and paddle boat rentals. A second, deeper, boat launch is also proposed.
  • Naturalization of some of the areas of the park where grass cutting is difficult, which the report notes would allow native plant material and habitat to increase.
  • Off-grid washrooms and change rooms.

A trail system to connect Kalmo Beach to Val Caron via a trail system possible through Vale lands to the north of the city property has also been proposed. 

“A carefully designed trail system could increase visitation by offering a multi-seasonal experience for hiking,” according to the report. “Safety and surveillance of the park would increase with user frequency, year-round. The city should consider purchasing additional lands or pursue agreements with adjacent landowners to increase the opportunities for access to green space.”

The master plan proposes a 10-year phased approach to accomplishing these goals at a park Kirwan considered “a diamond in the rough” and “best-kept secret” in the Valley.

“I am convinced that we have never been closer to realizing the full potential of developing the Kalmo Park Conservation Area into one of the most spectacular all-season outdoor recreation facilities in the City of Greater Sudbury,” Kirwan said by emailed correspondence.

Estimating the entire plan to cost as much as $10 million, Kirwan said that he’s confident there are enough people in the community eager to help make the dream a reality with financial donations. They might also have portions of the park named after their family or loved ones.

“I am confident that we might be able to see the entire park built within the next five years,” he said, pledging to spend the next five years meeting with benefactors to help bring the whole thing together.

The preliminary studies, if approved during 2023 budget deliberations, will help set the stage for this work, he said, and will join the Howard Armstrong Recreation Centre Park in establishing “the identity of Valley East as a community that values the importance of sports and outdoor recreation.”

Originally called Sandy Beach, the park was later named Kalmo Beach after Peter Kalmbo, a longtime municipal council member and three-year mayor of Valley East. Kalmo is credited with founding Parks and Recreation in Valley East and for being involved in various other community initiatives. He died in 1978. 

Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.