Port authority makes pitch to save shoreline
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.