September 5, 2015: At 11 o'clock this morning Central Elgin officials held a ceremony at the entrance of the west breakwater in Port Stanley to celebrate the re-opening of the breakwater to the public.
Mayor David Marr said it has been 20 years since he started with harbour divestiture,
the agreement for which was signed September 8, 2010. MP Joe Preston commented that
without the divestiture, this rebuilding and reopening of the west breakwater -
called "the pier" by local residents - would not have happened. However, when MP
Joe Preston used this speaking opportunity to promote Karen Vecchio, who is the
Conservative candidate for this riding in the current federal election, people in
the crowd sitting within earshot of this reporter thought it was "inappropriate"
and "completely outrageous". "He should not have done that," one man commented.
The federal government closed the west breakwater in 2008 for safety reasons. Vanessa
Bell, representing the three people who lost their lives off the pier in 1998, read
Art Carey's poem "I Am the Lighthouse Pier" in commemoration of those lost lives
and that poem is now mounted on the right hand pillar as you walk out onto the west
breakwater. Public safety is a priority for Central Elgin Council and staff, and
a public education campaign on breakwater safety has been initiated. Information
on breakwater safety can be found on signage around the breakwater, at the Central
Elgin Municipal office, and online at
Central Elgin obtained ownership of the breakwater through the transfer of lands
from the federal government in 2010. Council decided to do the complete rehabilitation
of the west breakwater at this time, rather than only part of it, "as it improves
maintenance, improves safety and saves money," Mayor Marr explained. "Public support,
positive comments and suggestions encouraged us as a council to do the right thing."
Glass has been installed along the wall for visual accessibility. Graphite poles
have been installed to deter birds from landing on the walkway. They have proven
effective in other locations and will not hurt the birds. The concrete surface is
suitable for municipal trucks to drive out to the lighthouse, making maintenance
easier and making the west breakwater fully accessible to wheelchairs. The blue
fence is temporary while the municipality moves forward with the construction of
Hofhuis Park. The rehabilitation of the breakwater cost a total of approximately
$3.1 million. The money expended came from the harbour contribution funds and investment
income that the Municipality received from Transport Canada in 2010, and had no
impact on property taxes.
Mayor Marr said, "The re-opening of the breakwater to the public is a significant
moment in Port Stanley's history. It will be a major tourist attraction for the
area, and taking a walk along the breakwater will bring back fond memories of Port
Stanley for many people. Safety has been first and foremost in our minds throughout
the whole process, and many steps have been taken to make sure that those who visit
the breakwater are able to do so safely, and enjoy the experience."
Joan Sutherland, wife of the late Ort Sutherland who was the last lighthouse keeper
for Port Stanley, was invited to represent the people of Port Stanley at this ceremony.
After the ribbon cutting, pedestrians were led down the breakwater for the first
walk by a bagpiper. Mackies' famous Orangeade and cake were being served in a big
tent on the beach after the ceremony - a welcome respite from the heat and sun for
many who attended today's ceremony.
All the concrete trucks are gone and now it's official, Port Stanley's west breakwater,
known to many as "the pier", is now re-open for all to enjoy.