Bold vision for Rockland riverfront

Par Raymond Berthiaume
Bold vision for Rockland riverfront
waterfront vision

Julian Lenhart, community development director, presented the administration’s vision for how the city plans to proceed with consultations and engagement on the project at the May 11 council meeting.

“We aren’t just talking about Parc Du Moulin,” said Lenhart during his presentation to council. “We are talking about seven kilometres with enormous potential […], to create an asset for our community and our businesses.”

The vision presented by Lenhart includes the aspiration to create a hub of activity around the waterfront that celebrates the city’s natural heritage. Not only does that include boating, biking, cross-country skiing but also creating a place for restaurants, bars, and cafés, markets, shopping, overall relaxation and a marina.

Lenhart adds that the administration is not looking at concrete plans just yet, but is laying the groundwork for consultations, engagement and conversations with the community on how the waterfront should be utilized.

“What’s important is that this is just a starting point,” Lenhart told council. “This vision is malleable.”

“The city’s vision for the waterfront is ambitious, and cannot be achieved in isolation,” he said, adding it would require many partners, but public and private.

Location, Location, Location

Pointing to its proximity to the downtown and County Road 17, Lenhart noted that Clarence-Rockland’s waterfront is an aspect of the city that other municipalities along the water may not share, with very easy access to the Ottawa River’s natural beauty.

“The proximity and the links between the waterfront and the downtown benefit both and allows for the overall development of both those areas,” said Lenhart. “It allows us to make it very accessible so people would be able to go between the downtown, our more recreational areas and then to our waterfront.”

As a tourist attraction, the city believes being placed between Montréal and Ottawa along a boating route gives Clarence-Rockland a unique opportunity.

The Time is Now

For as long as Rockland has been next to the Ottawa River, developing the local waterfront property has been a subject of discussion for many previous councils, but getting shovels in the ground has proven challenging.

“But what was always missing was something concrete in terms of how we would move forward,” said Lenhart.

With the new council, a path forward presented by the city, the development of a new strategic plan, the recent organizational review and a huge increase in growth over the last several years, the city is well positioned to take on the challenge.

“The administration has grown and its capacity to manage a project of this size has grown also,» said Lenhart.

The city itself has also grown, added Lenhart. With more interest in higher density housing and the movement away from predominantly single-family detached dwellings, the appetite for a waterfront development has grown with the city.

“Clarence-Rockland has changed over time.” said Lenhart. “You have to have higher density, you have to have a bigger population, you have to have that kind of localized population to be able to support businesses.”

On top of the bureaucratic requirements, better utilization of the waterfront has already begun, said Lenhart. More recreational activities, events and programs are being organized around Parc Du Moulin, but now is the time to ramp up efforts to turn the park and its surroundings into an attractive destination for residents and tourists alike.

Dollars and Sense

Lenhart and the administration said they are keeping the taxpayers’ wallet in mind.

“The approach is always going to be measuring the return on investment and making sure that this still the right decision,” he said.

Using development charges, investment from private partners and leveraging investments from provincial and federal government funding will keep the cost to residents at a minimum.

“It’s really a question of developing partnerships with the developers and with other partners to be able to develop a waterfront so that it meets the needs of the community, not just one group or not just for the purposes of developing.”

However, Lenhart says that development to the waterfront is an inevitability at this point, and it is up to the city to get ahead of it.

“Right now, it’s a question of putting the principles in place that will help guide the development.”

Council on Board

Councillor Samuel Cardarelli noted that during the most recent election campaign, councillors heard from many residents who asked for bike paths, green and community spaces, as well as waterfront development. For Cardarelli, seeing a vision starting to form was encouraging.

“This ties in everything we’ve heard and have in our strategic plans but never came with something more,” he said. “So, I want to thank the administration and I look forward to seeing where we can go with public consultation and community engagement.”

Councillor Kyle Cyr, who was a councillor when other conversations about waterfront development were happening around the council table, was also happy to see the administration put forward a vision.

“In 2003 to 2010 when I was here, we just couldn’t envision what we wanted for the waterfront,” he said. “It’s not just building a park. It’s the development of a new community. Thank you for putting on paper what we’ve been trying to express for, at least on my part, for 20 years.”

Cyr also highlighted two of the most important aspects of the visions: ensuring the entire community has access and developing the right partnerships to make the project a success.

Mayor Mario Zanth reiterated that the vision presented is just a path forward and no final decisions have been made, adding that the project has to be in the best interest of everyone from Rockland to Hammond.

“Tax revenues from this generated from this can be redistributed throughout the whole of the municipality,” said Zanth. “This is for everyone that lives here.”

The idea of a riverfront development is already included in the municipality’s Official Plan and the most recent Strategic Plan, the two most important setting the agenda for the city’s future.

The next update from the administration on the project is scheduled for August 2023.

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