Bayfront is not just a beach, but a symbol
Don’t swim in Hamilton Harbour. That’s hardly new advice, nor has it been particularly shocking for the better part of a century.
Hamilton has been as hard on its precious waterfront as any major metropolis in the developed world, perhaps more so.
But recent news that the City of Hamilton has closed the small beach this year at Bayfront Park is still a cause for concern.
A consultant will deliver a report on water quality there by the end of the summer, at which time council will decide what the long-term future holds for the ill-fated beach, and whether the closure should become permanent.
The challenge is that poor water quality already forces the city and health officials to close the beach more days than not each summer. Turns out it’s closed 78 per cent of days during summer. The water can make people sick.
Farm run-off is often a problem for water quality at beaches across Ontario, as is municipal waste following big storms.
Bayfront’s beach is additionally burdened by its human-made geography, which traps water in the tiny bay that protects the beach, as well as by excrement from geese and gulls. High E. coli counts and toxic algae have plagued the area in recent years.
The consultants will look at ways to improve water quality, but the report may well recommend “another feature that is sustainable” for the site.
In other words: no beach, no swimming.
Council should weigh the latter option carefully. Whatever the challenges, it is far too early to give up on this gem in downtown Hamilton.
It’s not merely a nostalgic notion. To be sure, swimming is hardly a big part of this unique leisure and recreation area, but it is symbolic of a healthy environment and a city that cares about itself.
A clean beach is a tourist attraction and landmark for which we can all be proud. A polluted beach is a reminder of the mistakes we have made in the past and our inability to deal with it in the present. The fact is we must do better when it comes to the environment if we are to continue to enjoy it, profit from it, and remain healthy because of it. Closing the beach is an admission of defeat.
Meanwhile, Bayfront Park is well used by Hamiltonians and visitors, but it is destined to see much greater use in the future as the area grows in population and popularity. We don’t know how this downtown jewel will be used in the future, but we should remember that the possibilities are endless, and that swimming, and fun on the beach, should remain one of them if at all possible. (Source: Hamilton Spectator)