Pretty Fucking Lame – A new Old Port beach for 2012

Andy Riga at Metropolitan News put it succinctly, how lame is an Old Port beach where you can’t swim?, and I couldn’t agree more. I’ve brought up the issue of the lack of public beaches on-island before, and the Old Port Corp’s recent proposal to construct a ‘no-swimming beach’ is a penultimate example of lack of ambition.

I think we’ve got a weird creativity problem coming from the semi-corporate, semi-public-interest corporations running our primo public space. They offer a bland foreign substitute when they ought to be pushing to fix significantly larger problems. Once again, a problem – lack of public beaches – which could necessitate a fantastic response – a metropolitan plan to clean our local waterways and rehabilitate the beaches which occur naturally on-island. And once again, a complete lack of vision.

Aerial perspective of new Old Port 'beach'

As you can see above, this new ‘urban beach’ is destined to be situated at the eastern tip of the Quai de l’Horloge. Currently, the area is pretty run down, not having been renovated since, by the looks of things, the early 1990s. Most of the beach would extend down the inner side of the Quai’s marina, offering a pleasant view of the Old Port and many ostentatious yachts. If they construct a new pavilion at the end of the Quai, with appropriate facilities, I don’t see why anyone wouldn’t go there. It may quickly become a douche-bag/white-trash repository with juiced-up muscle-heads parading around ceaselessly with popped-collars and rococo-Catholic tattoos, but hey, just because that’s exactly what you’ll find at the;

1. Beach at Parc Jean-Drapeau
2. Oka Beach
3. Eastern look-out on the Mountain
4. La Ronde
5. The Orange Julip
6. For some reason the Oratory?

doesn’t mean it will necessarily happen in the Old Port too, right? That would be pretty fucking lame.

Maybe you run this risk in every place people congregate, but it seems as though a beach without the possibility for swimming is basically a place where you get drunk while sun-bathing. And if you can’t cool-off by taking a dip, then your just going to drink. I’m no teetotaler, but we should think this one through. Off the bat it doesn’t seem like it’s going to be family-friendly, and that’s where the money lies. But perhaps I’m taking liberties; there’s no reason to think that this new development would be treated any differently than the rest of the facilities, restaurants, pavilions etc throughout the rest of the harbour-front. In my opinion, they do generally good work – so here’s hoping it succeeds.

Ultimately, any new development in the Old Port is probably worth it, and this area could use a renovation, and this one is as good a plan as anywhere else. It has worked in Paris, though I feel the Parisian example is significantly better connected to the urban traffic dynamic. This beach is planned for the end of the Quai, in an area which is otherwise used for parking. That being said, it’s not isolated when you consider it in relation to the placement of other facilities along the linear park – in other words, it could be a ‘pole of attraction’ designed to stimulate increased traffic at that end of the Old Port, an area which is currently being redeveloped with high-density residential housing.

Quai de l'Horloge beach perspective drawing

The big problem with this kind of development is that it’s so simple, so unimaginative. Aside from the fact that it’s an imported idea, it doesn’t consider the bigger local issue, which is that we live on an island that once had numerous natural, largely public beaches and clean water to bathe in. Now we don’t.

We’ve shut ourselves out of an interesting industry – resort tourism – as a result. Consider how many other cities built along rivers have almost immediate access to large public beaches, boardwalks and resort, beach-side communities. New Yorkers have access to this, as do Cariocans; hell, even Londoners can escape to Brighton! But we’ve lost our beaches as a result of our previous industrial development. It also doesn’t help that Lac St-Louis is sort of a collecting pond for industrial waste and pollutants coming down from the Great Lakes, and so instead of planning and creating funds to clean our river and lakes, we announce cheap imitations with great fanfare.

As I said, pretty fucking lame.

What do you think we should do? Does this argument make sense? Hope this was clear – feedback & constructive criticism always appreciated.

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