Mayor Brett Todd
Well, yes, if the return of the chilly, rainy weather the past week is any indication. But I'm actually referring here to another matter, namely the caution issued on Friday, July 21 by the Leeds, Grenville, and Lanark Health Unit about slightly high bacteria counts at the Kelly's Bay Beach in Centennial Park and then continued this past Friday for another week.
While this isn't exactly a stop-the-presses moment, as such cautions and even closures take place at beaches all along the St. Lawrence River every year, and have for decades, it is eternally disappointing. Summer is just too fleeting. Who wants to give up a day of it, let alone a couple of weeks?
Prescott also seems to be hit with these sorts of warnings relatively often in the summer. I don't have access to any historical data, so I may well be incorrect here, but my memory tells me that we experience water quality issues a little more often than our neighbours. Kelly's was the only beach in our area along the St. Lawrence to receive any sort of warning on July 21 (although the cautions were widely expanded to other local beaches on July 28, almost certainly due to the incredibly heavy rainfall the preceding Monday), which makes me wonder about root causes here.
So I've made inquiries at town hall about investigating this farther. Granted, answers may be difficult to come by, and the situation difficult or impossible to resolve even if a problem can be identified. Kelly's is an intimate little cove, which certainly has its charm and offers shelter from faster moving currents and winds. But this could also result in water being trapped and the occasional higher than recommended numbers in the health unit's tests.
Kelly's Bay is one of the best assets that Prescott has. It's a locale that we need to do more with in the future, and to fully recognize just how popular it is again becoming with swimmers. I've seen more people there over the past few summers than I have for many years. This trend should only grow in the future, making it important that the park be made an even higher town priority.
I've personally wanted to do more down there for some time. Now that we are finally through the construction of RiverWalk Park, which of course occupied a lot of time and budgetary room over the past six years, I want to revisit Centennial Park and dust off the expansion plans (which involved extending the beach, working with the Coast Guard to revamp up their dock area, and installing a raft and dock like we had in the 70s and 80s) that we commissioned back in 2011.
That said, we are already doing a lot to enhance and promote both Kelly's Bay and Centennial Park overall. We've added a heating system to the municipal pool along with more programming and free public swimming. New picnic tables have been installed. A full renovation of the beach gazebo has just been completed. The nearby Prescott Tennis Club courts have just undergone a full resurfacing.
Work has begun to renovate the boat launch area (although this remains a work in progress, due to illegal parking). And we have new amenities coming like the splash pad that council has established a reserve fund (this account will be at $100,000 in 2018, if council continues with the recent practice of placing $25,000 into it each year) to build in the near future.
Kelly's Bay and Centennial Park are already beautiful spots for those who know about them, but the potential is there to turn them into some of the best waterside amenities in the entire region. It starts with doing all that we can to improve consistent water quality so that our beach is always open through the short summer months, and it continues with a community focus that will see more amenities and features continually added so that we can better reveal this hidden gem to residents and visitors alike.