Waterways are a central feature in most urban cores. People like to look at them, walk along them, dip their toes in them – residents and tourists alike.
An industrial city, Saint John had for decades restricted access to the public because industrial developments ringed the inner harbour. A former writer with the old Saint John Times Globe once did a wonderful feature series of stories where he tried to walk around the barriers to the inner harbour to illustrate how hard it was to do. Then along came Harbour Passage in 2006, the well-travelled cranberry walking trail that now snakes around the water’s edge from the old sugar refinery site to the Reversing Falls.
There remain stretches of industrial and commercial lands where the general public can’t get close to the water’s edge, but Port Saint John is doing its part to rectify that. In partnership with Saint John Waterfront and TD Bank, they’re constructing a 500-metre extension that will take the trail to the water’s edge at the end of Long Wharf.
Public access to Port lands has been an issue with waterfront development from the beginning. It’s been difficult to strike a balance between the economic and security needs of the industrial and commercial developments with the needs of residents and tourists, who are economic drivers in their own rights.
The decision to partner on an extension of Harbour Passage is one of the ways the Port is trying to address those conflicting needs, says Jim Quinn, president and CEO of Port Saint John, in an interview after the announcement today.
Port Saint John had previously constructed a public lookout on the roof of the Diamond Jubilee Cruise Terminal, which has security requirements around the dock of those ships, and they’ve now begun work on the new Harbour Passage extension.
“People want access to Port property,” says Quinn, “and that’s become so difficult since the security requirements that have been implemented since the 9/11 [terrorist attacks]. And yet we’ve been trying to think of innovative ways to do that.”
Quinn says the trail extension should be ready in time for Canada Day, July 1, as part of the commemorations of the country’s 150th birthday celebrations.