Before I describe a concept, or theme, for the Welland Water Way, I'll present a backstory and a prospectus.
The backstory is about Welland politics and the prospectus is a business presentation for investment.
When Mayor Richard Reuter, seen to be the insurance agent for the Ward family, began bargaining with
the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority, I was there. I might have been sitting outside, but Seaway Authority
officials were talking with me. This was before an election. I was told they were going to wait until after the
election before they signed any deal, because they hoped someone like me, who understood the canal and agreed with their federal and provincial parks plan, would become mayor.
When the new canal bypass was finished, the Seaway Authority offered Welland $27,000,000 for canal maintenance. Other federal and provincial funding would have been available for parks construction. Welland City Council kept turning that down. The Seaway Authority came to Welland to finalize a deal. What they didn't like was Mayor Richard Reuter wanting to lower their maintenance money to $17,000,000, so canal-side property could be used as real estate. I told a Seaway official there was no chance I would be mayor.
After the election, that's what happened, land for private development with only $17,000,000 for the city.
It was construction companies related to Mayor Damian Goulborne that built these new subdivisions.
The first new construction for the recreational canal was a storm sewer into the canal from this subdivision.
Mayor Damian Goulborne was elected as a Niagara College Tourism professor, saying he designed a successful tourist attraction in South America. Three months after the election the Tribune said he was just a teacher. No-one ever mentioned this South America attraction again. Mayor Damian Goulborne was elected as saying he would develop Merritt Island. That was part of the original Seaway Authority plan. You can see the remains of some pipes and canal photos that were erected at that time, with no new development after.
To get his hands on canal money, Mayor Goulborne arranged to build an amphitheatre for musical presentations at Merritt Park, not Merritt Island. No amphitheatre in Turkey or Greece, where there were the most, or in Rome, was a floating metal barge with seats on land. An amphitheatre was a stage with two levels, trap doors so actors could rise up onstage, and a balconey for musicians and actors. The stone seats were carved for comfort, some having lower lumbar support. They weren't made out of concrete landscaping blocks like the ones at the Burlington Mall. The Italian Businessmans' Association in Burlington, and Stoney Creek, must have had something to do with that, just like all the marble at the New City Hall that Mayor Goulborne said Welland needed. He said the old City Hall needed to be torn down, it was so falling apart.
As you can see, with new signage, it's being rented out to other businesses.
The Tribune printed a special edition, saying the canal fund had $14,000,000. The next time the canal fund was mentioned it was $11,000,000. A "volunteer committee" of Welland citizens was authorized to spend canal money on construction, but after many years of contention, and finally, public admissions of fraud,
it was disbanded without any criminal investigation. The fact they were volunteers made them excusable, according to Mayor Campion. The city borrowed money for construction along the canal, one building cost over $11,000,000, with $500,000 going to a Philadelphia architect, an American city where Mayor Damian Goulborne and his family had a vacation the year before. As soon as it was finished, the Tribune printed an article saying it was a "white elephant" right away, redundant, looking like it was built for one event for a Toronto business. As mayor, I would sell that and use the money for local jobs working on the canal. Councilor Paul Grenier, who arranged it, said "Welland got a big bang for its' bucks", a very old city council description.
I say Paul Grenier got banged while Welland got bucked. He should be liable for any financial loss.
The amphitheater copied a Toronto attraction in a small way, Luminaqua. Tubes of coloured gas were fed into the floating canisters, and a computer directed them into the air as music played. After the first year those canisters had firewood placed in them and were lit with gasoline. Performers onstage had smoke and ashes blowing in their faces, depending on wind direction. A fountain, yes, a fountain was built to be floating in the canal, and the mist from that would be blowing on musicians depending on wind direction. After a couple of years that was turned off. Council is sadistic this way. The Welland Amphitheater has the only live music contract that I, as a professional musician who traveled around Ontario and lived in Toronto, has seen.
It stipulates that any live act has to perform to the last minute of the time that is contracted for, or they won't get paid. No legitimate outdoor festival can do that.
There was no roof over the stage until one was built at the end of the third year. The Tribune did not report on the many bodies that were found floating around the stage. One summer, ten bodies were found floating in that area, but the Tribune only reported three. I found one of those bodies, calling the police.
Just like Marie Antoinette said let them eat cake, City Council is saying let them watch free bands.
If stages such as the one in the Centennial auditorium and other high schools were used for concerts,
think how much more acoustic and comfortable the experience would be. That would also be putting your tax dollars into local infrastructure when school boards were having funding cuts. If an outdoor stage like other music festivals was built on Merritt Island, it could be improved over time to be a provincial attraction.
The bridge over the aquaduct could be an ideal entrance, for the scenic value and crowd control.
That is the then and now that has and hasn't happened, a federal-provincial park for the bypassed canal,
now bypassed in more ways than one. I could keep typing and have a chapter for a book, but I won't.
Let's look at a possible prospectus, which is something the people of Welland never had a chance to vote for. What could a possible concept for the recreational canal be?
There used to be Waverly Beach in Fort Erie. That was as much about Buffalo people coming to Ontario for recreational swimming and the beach as it was Canadian. It was a Buffalo "business man" who built the Peace Bridge, and it was the Buffalo Canoe Club and the Point Abino Homeowners Association, all people from Buffalo, who built the first major constructions along Lake Erie, from Fort Erie to Point Abino.
Waverly Beach had the first use of "scientific swimming", using chlorine in the water to kill germs.
Huge concrete walls went out into the lake, dividing different depths of swimming areas. On land, what is now overgrown with trees like a forest, was a solid concrete base for tourist attractions and retail stores.
Only huge trees with circular concrete bases around them showed the underlying ground. Yes, even before the end of that century, people thought Lake Erie was too polluted to enjoy safe swimming in the water.
The two story dance hall, the big interior building, the boat docks for Americans coming over from Buffalo,
all were lost when American gangs and university frats began fighting and killing each other, with rampant drug use and prostitution. It was all torn down... and for a while, before the trees, shrubbery and drifting sand started to cover it up, it looked like something from The Planet of the Apes. I filled in for a country band at the Waverly Beach Hotel in the early eighties, the last building left from the original park, a newer business that wasn't located in the original concrete construction. That's been torn down.
Now, a public walkway with some information stands has been built where the lakeside road used to be.
I don't have to describe the history of Crystal Beach, except to say it was built after Waverly Beach was closed, and the same thing happened there with American gangs and university fraternities. What can be said is that the people of the Niagara Peninsula wanted a Lake Erie tourist facility where safe swimming and lakeside parkland could be enjoyed. And yes, the people of Buffalo and Niagara Falls New York also.
The same lakeside tourist attraction was constructed at Prudhommes, north of St. Catharines. That closed and opened a few times, and is a newer construction now with a huge water slide, it's main attraction. However, for a lakeside attraction, there is no swimming in Lake Ontario because of pollution.
In the late seventies, signs were posted on the beaches at Port Dalhousie, down to Niagara-on-the-Lake, and around Lake Gibson, saying the water is unsafe for swimming and don't walk in the mud with bare feet.
When those signs got old, falling down and being removed, they were never replaced, even if the pollution got worse. Port Dalhousie isn't repairing the walkway out into the lake, so that attraction is being lost.
You are never going to get public swimming in the Niagara River, the Niagara Gorge or the Whirlpool Rapids. Niagara Falls might be one of the greatest world attractions, but as far as water goes, that's it.
Let's think about the Welland Water Way as being the first and biggest potential water attraction to rival all of those, with many aspects of water use for Welland citizens and federal and provincial tourists. It took international business to build and maintain the Welland Canal, and it will take federal and provincial business to bring it back to life as a resident and tourist attraction.
A brief history of Niagara Peninsula tourist water attractions,
and a small description of the recreational canal as a business prospectus.
The name Welland Water Way is an original name, but that doesn't mean what I have to say has to be the way it is. I like it for many reasons, what best names do, suggest something for everyone. You can say it's generic, corporate, or too simple, but it can work for the city in every way for every water way.
The initials are WWW, easy to see as wave shapes for graphic art designs you could use for signs and advertising. Anyone who sees WWW would know it's a Welland Water Way function, even if the wave shapes get smoothed out for shallow water or child accessible attractions, or big and stormy for adult use, such as professional swim meets and boating races. These capital letters, using the same space as any other words for a title, would be very large and easy to see. And online, there can never be a domain or page name that uses WWW as a title or destination. Typing in or searching for Welland would bring that up as much as any existing Welland words. But this is just about what you see, not what it can describe.
My concept for the Welland Water Way can be seen in the words themselves, not a waterway, but the Welland Water Way. That's using the canal not only as a historic Welland business, but for a return to a safe water environment, in terms of no pollution, safe for swimming and aquatic events. This Water Way concept can be extended to the parklands and attractions on and beside the canal, getting back to nature. That could include everything from the parkland areas for picnics, the food that is being sold, to the design of benches and docks. Merritt Island itself, separate from the land of Welland city, joined only by the aquaduct bridge, could be horticultured and gardened as a return to the garden the Niagara Peninsula was before European settlers tried to recreate their European crops, birds and animals over here. I'm sure we all know that our ecosystem is failing, saying bees and frogs disappearing as two examples.
The most populous trees in the Niagara Peninsula, before the palefaces came here, were white walnut, or sweet walnut trees, now called California walnuts. It's nice to imagine a forest floor covered in walnuts.
As a separate island, a barrier that prevents the disease Europeans brought over that killed off these trees,
we should be able to grow them again. As Niagara College horticultural students in Welland, there could be a scientific attempt to make them immune to this disease, experimenting with these trees. When that becomes a reality, you can imagine the demand for sweet walnut trees that are immune, all over Canada. A product!
Planting sugar maple trees in grassy areas for shade, using them for maple syrup, is a natural. Raspberry bushes were one of the first genetically modified plants that really worked, called ever-bearing raspberries.
They start providing fruit in the spring and keep providing until the first freezing weather. Instead of wire or wood fences, I can see using rows of raspberry plants as dividers and pathway liners. Imagine going for a walk along the canal or camping there, and eating fresh and alive raspberries along the way. Needless to say, they could be picked and sold as Welland Water Way produce, with local restaurants getting a nice price to use and promote them in their menus.
The majority of people in Welland have never gone past the walkway that goes to the train bridge.
That's where the land widens and becomes more acreage, until you get to the point where the old canal and the new canal meet. Using the thin section after the aquaduct bridge is a natural for walking and human powered sports equipment, and for stands to watch on the water activities. Having parks vehicles to bring people to the huge acreage past the train bridge where pathways and walking bridges over streams could become a forest wonderland, where cabins could be rented, could not only provide work for pioneer style construction, it would generate jobs as landscape designers and parks maintenance.
There already is a new canal road running alongside that part of the island, a new one not needed.
If there is one thing I would like to see, it's naming the point at the end of Merritt Island. My parents were founding and charter members of our Scottish church, Knox Presyterian. My father was the elder for Mayor Allan Pietz and Member of Parliament Ellis Morningstar. I remember when they sat in the office talking about Welland and what to do with all the steel factory workers who were becoming unemployed after war production was no longer needed. They came up with the idea to build a canal bypass because the factories no longer needed docks for ocean boat transport, and the city was still tied up with vehicular and sidewalk traffic when the bridges were up.
Considering that the family of Ellis Morningstar endured the same victimization by criminals that my family had, it would be nice to name it Morningstar Point. That is a recognition of Welland politics, one reason, but there's a parkland reason that's meaningful as Welland Water Way. That point, with an all-round view of one canal, the other canal, and the grassland behind it, is where you can always see the morning star, and all the stars a night, there is so little artificial lighting out there. And being able to look down two canals, with Merritt Island behind you, I see it as the biggest vista view in all of Welland. Morningstar Point, I'm thinking of the kind of graphic artwork you can use already, and the small walkway lights for safe travel at night.
The biggest aspect of the Welland Water Way is the water itself. If you finish off the train bridge with more stone construction as a dam, the canal could be seen as the biggest artificial body of water in the world for only recreational use. It could be seen as ready to be built to aquarium standards, for pure water. That's the heart of the Welland Water Way concept, the water itself. We have already seen how major water attractions have failed along the shores of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, because of undesired public attendance and public concerns about unsafe water. The people of the Niagara Peninsula, the people of the world, might look upon our use of the man-made canal and man-made Merritt Island as being unnatural, saying our Welland Water Way is a global-sized artificial aquarium. But when it comes down to knowing that Welland, the center of the Niagara Peninsula, has safe water and secure parkland, with the serenity and peace of a restored nature that was thought to be lost forever, it will become desirable and eventually, irresistible as being affordable.
Looking at our world around us, seeing how the province has co-opted our farmers and fishermen,
for Toronto and American financial gain, thinking about Lake Erie fisheries being closed, it is irresponsible to think of the Welland Water Way without making it into a food provider, separating it for fish production.
That construction, deciding where to build a new divider with walkways, with or without road access,
even replacing the Main Street Bridge or building a divider up underneath it, would be secondary construction after parklands. Why? Even if the divider materials are there as the rock formations that are from the original construction of the canal, as a single entity with aquarium separation, the entire canal can be used as a fishery right from the start. New attractions will take time and funding, so providing sport and commercial fishing would be an exciting and dietary start right away. As someone who always stops to talk with fishermen along the canal and aquaduct, I'm seeing perch and pickerel as being the best species to support with separate fishing areas. As the entire canal, providing fish food so all species could multiply would begin to increase fish production immediately. Right now I'm thinking of twenty pound fresh water salmon, thirty pound carp, but that's just me. I saw a five foot muskellenge a young Welland couple caught.
What size fish could be raised in the biggest aquarium in the world?
News and views and ecologically friendly attractions like this would help to erase the reputation of Welland as being where the drugs come from, a reputation that began in the late sixties.
I hope you are starting to imagine your own ideas about what the Welland Water Way concept can be,
because it will take a city to work on this entire federal-provincial-municipal parkland.
The most important Welland Water Way innovation
This is going to be about plastic as a construction material. You can look around and see plastic is being used everywhere with almost everything. I'm typing on plastic keys, you're looking through a plastic screen with plastic coated wires bringing you this signal. There are plastic parts on your car, and you could be eating plastic manufacturing residues that are legally known as organic proteins. This has been difficult for me to type, considering what plastic was for me as a child. There was no formula for clear plastic. The colours weren't the colours of nature, and as for its' use, saying it was unbreakable was good for children.
In the late sixties, at high school, saying something was plastic or calling someone a plastic person was as bad an insult as I would say. That meant you were fake, unreal and a superficial person. When plastic lawn chairs came out, if you left them outside all winter, they would break when you sat on them. It was too easy to distrust plastic, but look what it has become in the world, an important part of our lives.
It's so important, the United States, with Canada as a partner, attacks and hacks other countries for their oil resources to continue manufacturing it. First, I have to say, bring our soldiers home. This makes plastic a very serious business, and we have to respect its' presence in our lives. I find comfort in re-using and recycling as diligently as I can, out of respect for what it is and what it takes to get it.
American statistics show that 10% of Americans don't know plastic is made from oil. Four elections ago, when I was talking about oil and plastic, a man from Thorold came up to me at the end of the debate to ask me if what I said was true, that if you melt plastic down you can make some gasoline. Months later, he came up to me in Welland to say he was making gasoline out of plastic, using it for his fleet of business vehicles and selling it at low prices to friends.
The most important reason this is a logical and sensible material to use for construction is the fact that the city can collect plastic as garbage, getting it for the cost of collecting it. Anything and everything made out of plastic can be used. All kinds of plastic can be separated or blended for various uses. Starting a factory space to collect and sort plastic in terms of colour, clarity and transparency would create immediate jobs. Melting it into various bricks of types of plastic would be next, and if available funding for this aspect of construction for Welland Water Way products isn't available, they could be sold to outside manufacturers to help keep building our factory.
Welland used to be a steel town, what most people think of in terms of factories. Plastic production and plastic products could become as large a business, but it won't be polluting as smoke-stack emissions, and plastic melts closer to the boiling point of water, not the thousands of degrees it took to make steel.
You might be thinking the Region controls waste management. It does. I don't like that. Taxpayers already pay for garbage disposal and the cost of the garbage dumps, and yet we pay to use them and can't remove materials we could re-use for ourselves. Talk talk talk about recycling was held over our heads, when that really wasn't happening, slowly improving over time. Do you remember when the Province was saying you can't recycle aluminum, you can't grow grapes in Ontario and make wine... remember? We as a city can reclaim the rights to our own garbage by a simple process. We can have a voluntary donation of plastic from residents for the creation of the Welland Water Way, a public business. This would allow Welland to create a fleet of vehicles and create jobs for the collection of plastic donations. This sounds too easy, but even if it is, I would use legal means first to regain control of our garbage. One argument would be saying that local use over-rides the ecological cost of outside trucks coming to Welland and transporting it out of Welland, creating exhaust pollution and wasting gas and oil with wear and tear for highway transportation, a high overhead cost compared to Welland Water Way storage and manufacture of bulk plastic for our industrial use or for sale. If citizens want to visit our new factory space and drop it off themselves, that's more than nice.
This immediate amount of plastic would be enough to begin manufacture of plastic products for the Water Way, and I would begin to gather aluminum for future use as another more durable material. What do plastic and aluminum have in common? The both don't rust or rot like steel or wood. Copper? It's a keeper,
along with aluminum and stainless steel, if we are going to begin working with metal in the future.
Please see the next page, "Water Way Wheels", for descriptions of various inventive uses.
Some personal trivia: William Hamilton Merritt, of British descent, lived in upper New York state before he came to promote and start building the first Welland Canal. The house he built in St. Catharines is now called Rodman Hall, a famous art gallery. He built a huge summer house on the top of a hill overlooking the Niagara River in Queenston Heights. When I lived in Queenston Heights for two years, this house was opened for renovations. It was easy for me with my ancestral, historic talk, also speaking Gaelic, to get contractors to let me inside to look around. They were taking some baseboard out, over 100 years old, to make room for more public access. I asked for sections and got some. The keyboard and mouse pad holders
I made for this computer uses pieces of that for arm and hand rests. The Gaelic spelling of water is watter.
You can see how appropriate I think all this is.... and yes... sometimes I think Welland Watter Way.