Grand Falls-Windsor enters design phase for Gorge Park expansion

·3 min read

The Town of Grand Falls-Windsor wants to add to its riverfront recreational facilities.

Residents and visitors can currently access the river via Gorge Park.

It has a boat launch, playground and an amphitheatre, and is the start of a trail system that runs along the river for about a kilometre.

The original Gorge Park — now Phase I of the project — was completed a decade ago and gave people better access to the Exploits River.

When it was finished, the long-term vision for the town was to expand upon the park and incorporate even more of the riverfront.

“The gorge goes all of the way to where the mill used to stand,” said Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Barry Manuel. “The goal is to have trail connectivity all the way up.”

During the town’s Jan. 25 council meeting, council approved the request for proposals to start the design phase of the project.

The town has completed its own conceptual, but needs to get some engineering work done. Manuel stressed there will be public consultations all along the way.

“Right now, we haven’t budgeted any money for actual work,” said Manuel. “But we are getting some design work done to be able to be prepared so that when, and if, the federal and provincial government or agencies like ACOA are able to say they have some funding available, then we have things shovel-ready.”

This second phase of Gorge Park will open up a larger part of the river for recreational opportunities.

There are plans to install a suspension bridge that connects one side of the river to the other, an extension of the trail system, storyboards, an amphitheatre and other amenities.

During the design phase, there would also be conceptual work done for additional trails.

There will be adventure tourism connections as well — there is a new zip line business scheduled to open in the future.

All of that will add a great resource to the town and the area as a whole, and it is something the town is excited about pursuing, Manuel said.

“I think it is a positive for the area,” said Adventure Central chairperson Geoff Orendorff. “It is all positive things.”

Orendorff operates Rafting NL in the region and offers paddle-based activities out of the Gorge during the summer months.

In the past, he’s given Grand Falls-Windsor town council input on various ideas.

Orendorff sees the plan to expand upon the riverfront in town as an important step to attract people to the area and get residents involved in more outdoor activities.

“It would really draw people out to be more active,” he said.

It all ties into the recreational master plan for Grand Falls-Windsor.

The town has been in talks with the provincial government for the last several years on the transfer of ownership of the former mill lands in town.

That transfer would include waterfront property and the Grand Falls House.

This latest project, while not dependent on the ownership of mill lands, could be incorporated into the work the town has planned for that.

“This is a big project for the town in a long term,” said Manuel.

Nicholas Mercer, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Central Voice