Riverside Parks should be publically-owned

A resident’s perspective

I am forwarding my submission on the 5 Arthur Street property in advance of the August 25th meeting to give you a heads up on a very important principle that is raised by the staff report on this property.

As I document in my submission the City of Guelph is committed to the principle that rivers (and riverside corridors) are undeniably public and that physical and visual access to them must be maximized. In keeping with this principle, and long before it was formally stated, the City of Guelph was acting on this principle by taking ownership of riverfront land as it became available. The appendix to my submission documents how active the City has been in building a linked open-space system along the Speed and Eramosa Rivers.

The staff proposal that the 15 m Riverwalk at 5 Arthur Street remaim privately owned is directly contradictory to both stated City principles and to the long-standing practice of building riverside park continuity. I strongly support the Downtown Secondary Plan’s emphasis on the need to expand parkland – so clearly exemplified in the acquisition of the riverside land between Wyndham, Gordon and the Speed. The justification that supports the acquisition of riverfront as publicly-owned land applies with equal strength to 5 Arthur as to the Wellington plaza triangle.

The importance of public ownership of river-valley land to assure its proper use and guarantee full public access in perpetuity was made clear in Amendment 1 to the Greenbelt Plan. The expansion of the Greenbelt to urban river valleys by the Province wisely limited the lands that could be added to publicly-owned lands as these were the only lands fully under public control and which could be assured to remain under stewardship as a public trust.

I strongly urge Council to act in accordance with stated policy, long tradition and the expressed public support for riverfront parkland. Altering the arrangements for 5 Arthur Street to provide public ownership by the City of the 15 m riverwalk and changing the Official Plan designation of the Riverwalk to Open Space will mark a further advance for the City of Guelph towards a fully integrated and linked open space river corridor system. This ownership and designation clears the way for this land to be a valued part of the Greenbelt. HW

August 25

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