Local News - City will request disaster funding for Mispec
24 Sep 2012 08:40AM
SAINT JOHN – Helen Shideler says Mispec beach used to be a vibrant place.
As a child, she would visit the beach in the summers with her family, playing in the sand and water. Later on, the artist drew inspiration from the roar of the water and sweeping shoreline for her paintings.
But during her most recent visit to the beach this summer, in search of shorebirds, the only impression she was left with was one word: lonely.
“There were no people playing, there were no sounds,” she said. “It was just a lonely place.”
The beach, which is strewn with litter and remains damaged from a heavy storm in 2010, has not been maintained since the former Saint John Common Council cut funding in this year’s budget as part of broader efforts to set cash aside to pay a looming bill to shore up the municipal pension plan’s massive deficit. Many residents have rallied for funding to install washrooms and garbage bins, repair damage, and clean up litter at the beach, without much success.
A report to be presented to Common Council at Monday’s meeting will address a part of those concerns. On July 16, councillors asked the city manager to apply for disaster funding through the Province of New Brunswick. The Disaster Financial Assistance Program will reimburse expenses for measures taken to repair flood and storm damage and prevent further erosion.
The report recommends that council put out a request for proposals for restorative work at Mispec Park, including the construction of a new gravel walkways to the beach and the installation of rip rap along the slope of the shoreline.
David Merrithew, councillor for Ward 4, which includes Mispec Park, said the funding is not enough, but is what’s possible at this point in time.
“They’ll rebuild what was destroyed during the storm of 2010. They’ll rebuild what was destroyed - no more no less,” he said. “That’s what we’ll do for now.”
Herb Duncan, who is part of the “Save Mispec Beach” group and has followed Saint John municipal politics for more than 20 years, said that the funds are not nearly enough, but are a start. He said the problems are a symptom of a great problem – confusion over priorities.
“It’s our failure as a city to on a proportional basis allocate the limited financial resources we have,” he said. “Things that are important to people – things like Mispec beach – those are the easy things to cut.”
He said Mispec beach is often touted as a tourist attraction, and is clearly valued by Saint John residents. “We need a council that for once says our priorities are the people,” he said.
Shideler said she’s pleased council may be starting to make some improvements to the beach, but she said there still needs to be more.
“I think if you’re going to invite people back to the beach, you have to do it all,” she said, adding that families with children would need bathrooms and the assurance there won’t be too much litter or dangerous areas due to erosion or storm damage.
“It made me sad, because it was lonely,” she said. “You used to see all kinds of people on the shoreline. It was just alive.”
She said Mispec beach used to be a “jewel” of the city, and it’s disappointing to see it abandoned.
“I just think it’s a sin the state it’s in and that it isn’t readily accessible to people,” she said. “The value that it brings to the community is just incredible.”
Link to my blog post on Mispec earlier this summer