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Common sense solutions at the pier

(Cartoon by George Longley)

The fact that the City of Oshawa and the Oshawa Port Authority are even discussing the possibility of closing the Oshawa pier to the public is a telling sign of a strained relationship that continues to impact the citizens of this city.

Hopscotch along the Lake Ontario waterfront and one will easily find a number of bustling and beautiful municipal lakefronts where residents not only enjoy a public pier for fishing and other activities, but also public boat launches and marinas. It’s the sad reality that Oshawa has neither of these latter developments, despite calls from the public for years.

Now, recent discussions are surrounding the possibility of closing the pier off from public use. The port authority, in a letter to city officials, claims that issues of safety exist and that unless the city can come to terms with co-insuring the pier, the pier could be closed off.

In particular, the port points to an incident last year in which a ship damaged the pier while it was entering the harbour, which, if people had been present on the pier at the time, could have caused serious injury.

In fairness, it is a legitimate concern. These massive ships are operating in a fairly confined space when they enter the harbour, and while an accident is rare, evidently they do happen, and making sure that residents are protected must be top of the list.

However, there must be a common sense solution, and one that doesn’t see the city on the hook for millions of dollars in insurance liability to the port.

For one possible answer, the city and port could look to the pedestrian gates that are installed at railway crossings, like the one recently built at the level crossing on Wilson Road. As a train approaches, the gate comes down, blocking access, similar to the way it does for cars on the road.

Could a similar device, or some type of warning system, be installed at the pier to keep people off when a ship is approaching and moving around in the harbour?

Or is it just a matter of installing a sign that advises residents to use the pier at their own risk?

Similar signs are installed on beaches not monitored by lifeguards. Would this eliminate the liability that both the pier and the City of Oshawa fear?

To be fair, many Oshawa councillors, including Doug Sanders, Gail Bates, and Nester Pidwerbecki should be given kudos for suggesting similar solutions during council’s most recent meeting, and making it clear the city will fight to keep the port open.

Now is the time for the city and the port authority to take a deep breath, put aside their differences, and let cooler heads prevail, because when it comes to closing the pier, the only ones who will be happy about the decision, are the fish who no longer have to deal with the fisherman’s hook.