BEN­E­FIT­ING COM­MU­NITY

Port au­thor­ity makes pitch to save shore­line

Windsor Star - - FRONT PAGE - DAVE BATTAGELLO dbattag­ello@post­media.com

Sav­ing Ojib­way Shores is some­thing we have been talk­ing about for 10 years.

The own­ers of the last stretch of un­touched land along Wind­sor’s Detroit River shore­line have made a pitch to the Wind­sor-Detroit Bridge Au­thor­ity to have it pre­served in its nat­u­ral state.

The Wind­sor Port Au­thor­ity ob­tained the 36-acre Ojib­way Shores prop­erty on the city’s far west end in a land swap with the City of Wind­sor about 25 years ago.

The port au­thor­ity for years has of­fered it up for devel­op­ment, but there have been no tak­ers.

The brakes were ap­plied on po­ten­tial devel­op­ment of the site in 2013 when sev­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal groups stepped up and voiced con­cern over what they be­lieve is a jewel of a Carolinian prop­erty ad­ja­cent to other nearby pro­tected Ojib­way lands and Black Oak Her­itage Park.

Ojib­way Shores pro­vides the only nat­u­ral con­nec­tion for those en­vi­ron­men­tally sen­si­tive lands to the Detroit River.

There had been ini­tial hopes the pris­tine site could be saved through an­other land swap with the city or for the fed­eral govern­ment to get in­volved and de­clare the site a pro­tected en­tity. None of that has oc­curred.

The port au­thor­ity re­cently ap­proached the Wind­sor-Detroit Bridge Au­thor­ity to see if the site, which sits in the shad­ows of the planned Gordie Howe In­ter­na­tional Bridge, could be in­cluded in the project so the new cross­ing’s pri­vate-sec­tor op­er­a­tor will lease the lands and make it avail­able as a pub­lic park.

“We’ve made a pro­posal that it be in­cluded in the com­mu­nity ben­e­fits (pack­age) for the Gordie Howe bridge,” said David Cree, the port au­thor­ity’s CEO. “Es­sen­tially, they have said they are pre­pared to dis­cuss the ar­range­ment with the (suc­cess­ful bid­der).

“If they agree, we would work with the city and (Es­sex Re­gion Con­ser­va­tion Au­thor­ity) so there would be en­hance­ment dur­ing con­struc­tion and then main­te­nance of Ojib­way Shores.”

What the port au­thor­ity wants in re­turn is a fi­nan­cial pack­age that cov­ers costs for “lost business” in lieu of de­vel­op­ing the site, Cree said.

He guessed that amount would be in the ball­park of $10 mil­lion over 30 years.

“There would be en­hanced pub­lic ac­cess and road to go into the prop­erty,” Cree said.

“Our man­date is port devel­op­ment, but we un­der­stand there is a com­mit­ment to see the land pre­served and we have been work­ing to see if we can do that. This seems like it might be a per­fect op­por­tu­nity.”

A spokesman for the bridge au­thor­ity would not com­ment di­rectly on the Ojib­way Shores pro­posal, but he said the Wind­sor-Detroit Bridge Au­thor­ity con­tin­ues to meet with groups as it works to in­clude com­mu­nity ben­e­fits within the Howe bridge project.

“WDBA can guar­an­tee that the Gordie Howe In­ter­na­tional Bridge project will in­clude a com­mu­nity ben­e­fits plan that will have pos­i­tive im­pact on com­mu­ni­ties in Wind­sor and Detroit and re­flects what our stake­hold­ers have told us is im­por­tant to them,” said Mark But­ler, di­rec­tor of com­mu­ni­ca­tions for the bridge au­thor­ity.

“We have re­ceived more than 200 sug­ges­tions from res­i­dents, business own­ers and com­mu­nity lead­ers on both sides of the bor­der.”

The pri­vate-sec­tor bid­der on the Howe project will de­cide what’s to be in­cluded in the com­mu­nity ben­e­fits plan as part of their pro­posal to build, fi­nance and op­er­ate the Howe bridge project, But­ler said.

“Once the pri­vate-sec­tor part­ner is se­lected, that team will de­liver the com­mu­nity ben­e­fits plan with strin­gent over­sight from WDBA,” he said.

One ex­am­ple al­ready in­cluded due to pub­lic de­mand was the ad­di­tion of a multi-use path to ac­com­mo­date pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists, But­ler said. The Detroit River Cana­dian Cleanup part­ner­ship has been a lead ad­vo­cate for sav­ing Ojib­way Shores as a nat­u­ral area.

“I thought the idea makes a lot of sense,” said Tom Hen­der­son, chair­man of the group’s pub­lic ad­vi­sory coun­cil. “This is a po­si­tion we sup­port.”

He noted how sev­eral groups have jumped on board to in­di­cate to the Wind­sor-Detroit Bridge Au­thor­ity how pro­tect­ing Ojib­way Shores is at the top of their Gordie Howe bridge project com­mu­nity ben­e­fits wish list.

“I know there are other im­por­tant is­sues, but many of us have nar­rowed our fo­cus on this,” Hen­der­son said.

“Sav­ing Ojib­way Shores is some­thing we have been talk­ing about for 10 years. It’s still (ad­ver­tised) for devel­op­ment, so it’s al­ways in dan­ger. Hope­fully a deal can be made; this seems like a great op­por­tu­nity.”

In this June 2013 photo, Wind­sor en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Tom Hen­der­son takes a walk through Ojib­way Shores.

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