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Pier access in question

Pier vital for lakefront, OPA says

Following issues at the Oshawa pier, discussions between the City of Oshawa and the Oshawa Port Authority are ongoing regarding continuing to allow public access to the pier following an incident in 2017. (Photos by Joel Wittnebel)

By Joel Wittnebel/The Oshawa Express

Public access to the pier is now in question after discussions between the City of Oshawa and the Oshawa Port Authority (OPA).

Following complaints from members of the public, some of whom received tickets for fishing off the pier while closed for the winter months, councillors recommended that staff meet with the OPA to discuss use of the pier. Currently, access to the pier is governed by a Promenade Agreement signed between the city and the OPA in 1986.

However, the request for further access to the pier appears to have backfired as a letter from the OPA to the city is looking at the possibility of banning use of the pier altogether.

According to a city report on the matter, that confidential letter from the OPA noted due to an incident last year with a vessel entering the harbour, “(the OPA) reviewed their liability implications to the general public’s use of the west pier. Their insurance broker has recommended that public pedestrian access to the west pier be eliminated.”

However, with that said, the letter has left the door open for a potential solution to the issue, which could see the city co-insuring the pier.

“The Oshawa Port Authority understands this is an important public resource and if the City of Oshawa would like to continue to allow public access the agreement should be revised to co-insure the Oshawa Port Authority,” the city report reads.

It’s unclear just how that’s going to go over at city hall. Currently, the city is part of the Durham Municipal Insurance pool, and according to the staff report, the supervisor of the insurance pool has recommended the city do no such thing.

The current snag did not go over well with members of the public at the Community Services Committee meeting on April 19.

“I think if you look at the whole thing, it seems to me the port authority is once again denying people access to the lake from the pier,” says resident Larry Ladd.

Ladd recommended that the city should seriously consider the possibility of co-insuring the pier in order to allow for continued public access.

“Decades after decades we have people fishing off that pier, walking out there,” he says. “I think an accommodation could be made and I think the city has to assume some liability for it.”

Ladd also noted that he was at the lakefront when the incident occurred that the OPA refers to in their letter. He explains that as tugboats were pulling a ship into the harbour, one of the ropes attached to the ship was cut or snapped, sending the rope whipping into the pier where it struck the metal railing, partially breaking it from the concrete moorings.

The incident was a concern for Councillor Nester Pidwerbecki, who noted the city has a responsibility to ensure that space is safe for the public.

“We’ve had no problems up until now,” he says.

Following a motion from Mayor John Henry, the issue was referred directly to city manager Jag Sharma to meet with the OPA to discuss their options moving forward, with the caveat of an update coming back to the committee’s next meeting on May 10.

According to Donna Taylor, the CEO and harbourmaster for the OPA, they are doing what they can to ensure access remains available for the public.

The Port Authority (OPA) is working with the City to review what needs to be done and what it would cost to continue to make the pier available to the public in light of the incident last year that took out a portion of the railing,” she states.  “There are safety and liability concerns, but both parties recognize this is of great public interest and a vital part of our waterfront.”