Essex sinks Colchester Beach inflatable water park proposal

·3 min read
A rendering of the area where a proposed inflatable water park would sit off the shore of Colchester Beach.  (Town of Essex - image credit)
A rendering of the area where a proposed inflatable water park would sit off the shore of Colchester Beach. (Town of Essex - image credit)

The Town of Essex has voted against a new lease agreement with Aqua City to erect an inflatable water park at Colchester Beach.

During its third reading, the bylaw was defeated 5-2 around the council table.

The park would have been roughly 30 by 30 metres in Lake Erie, with a small equipment and registration tent on the beach.

Dale Molnar/CBC
Dale Molnar/CBC

Essex Mayor Sherry Bondy — along with councillors Jason Matyi, Brad Allard, Kim Verbeek and Rodney Hammond — voted against the project.

Bondy says Colchester residents made it clear that now is not the time to proceed with the new beach amenity, and that there isn't enough parking in the area.

"I often get complaints from the residents who have boats with rentals saying there's not enough parking for them," said Bondy. "Let's hit pause, review our parking and any other concerns and maybe we can look at it again in the future."

Katie McGuire-Blais
Katie McGuire-Blais

Colchester Beach is "really popular," says Bondy — adding residents who live in the area are already without peace and quiet in the summer season.

"It is a public beach and we do want it busy too. But when it intrudes on the lives of residents there, we have to stop and think about how we can make it better."

Under the agreement, the town would have been responsible for 50 per cent of the cost of a safety audit — expected to cost the town about $3,000. It would also receive 10 per cent of sales for a one-year term.

Ward 1 councillors Katie McGuire-Blais and Joe Garon voted in favour of the water park project.

McGuire-Blais says it's unfortunate that a small group of residents feel like it's their beach that they own.

"They've bound together to get what they wanted done and they succeeded. It is unfortunate for the rest of the municipality that we're made to feel, possibly, we're not welcome at that beach — that it's just for Colchester, and that's untrue — it's the municipality's."

Essex Coun. Joe Garon says he saw the water park project as an additional attraction to the "beautiful beach" that focuses on young people, a group that the town often talks about trying to target.

However, he wasn't surprised by the community pushback, says Garon, or the fact it was eventually got shot down.

"Because the Colchester communities, particularly down the village area, they're very territorial, which is fine — it is in their backyard and they should have a say in it," Garon said. "But I know that they usually have a lot of pushback on things that we bring to them that is going to involve the beach area and the harbour area, and the village area."

"Not only are there parking concerns, but there are concerns with lifeguard employment safety concerns, liability concerns," added Bondy.

"We have to make the best decision based on all the information we have. Council took this really seriously."

Rob Shepley, deputy mayor, didn't vote after declaring a conflict of interest