The Urbanite – Jon Liedtke – Sept. 26, 2014
A local Ward 3 resident’s petition to green the Riverfront Festival Plaza has quickly become an election issue.
“The response has been overwhelmingly positive. People are saying that it’s a no-brainer and that they’d go there if it were green. They complain about how hot it is during the summer,” said Vin Heney, who started the initiative.
“I love the riverfront and I love walking there, and every time I walk by I scratch my head when I see the festival plaza sitting empty on beautiful summer days,” he added. “… it’s one of the best views in the city and it’s totally underutilized.”
Ward 3 candidates Rino Bortolin, Caroline Postma and Gabe Maggio commented publicly and in local media about the initiative. Bortolin and Postma are in support of the initiative. Gabe Maggio opposes the idea.
Heney launched greentheplaza.com, a webpage and online petition to track support and gain awareness. He notes grass, trees and possible elevation as additions which would help make the space more livable and people-friendly.
“It’s recognizing that in a city that’s already awash with parking lots … we don’t need another concrete space in our most beautiful downtown park. There’s economic, cultural and health benefits that would come along with a green space,” said Heney.
According to Heney, local festival organizers have reached out and expressed support, stating they’d “have more success organizing events in that space if it were green; they could utilize more of the space.”
Thom Hunt, City of Windsor planner, explained that the Central Riverfront Implementation Plan, a 25-year plan approved by council back in 2000, is at the halfway point. The city recently wrapped up a series of public consultations regarding what residents want to see along the riverfront.
“… some of that greening came up, people want to see more trees for sure,” said Hunt. “… the most tangible way to affect change on the waterfront is to make sure that there’s capital budget dollars [allocated].”
He added, “I think what the advocates are concerned about is the feel of the asphalt … some sun protection as well, those are things that are in future works for the park and it’s just a question of finding the money in the capital budget and then implementing the project.”
Brian Gaio is a St. Clair College student who was studying on the stage in the shade at sunset Thursday evening.
“There’s no other areas for me and my friend to [do homework], so I have to come to the one area I can,” said Gaio, when asked why he was sitting on the stage. He added that the addition of park benches would enhance the space.
Bortolin believes the initiative would both improve the atmosphere and quality of the Riverfront Festival Plaza during events, and allow for the area to see more use throughout the year. “Usage would undoubtedly increase and we could also consider different types of events to host there such as soccer games or other athletic events.”
“The festival plaza is arguably the jewel in the crown of our riverfront park system,” said Bortolin, noting the initiative would improve upon that and make it accessible year round.
“At the moment there’s nobody here, it looks like a ghost town,” said Gaio. “There’s nowhere for anyone to sit, there’s no grass, it’s only the little hillside and the only thing that we can sit on is the stage.”
In the four days the petition has been online (it’s not yet in print) it’s received roughly 150 signatures.
“There’s never enough green space in a city, especially in this city there’s a lot of parking lots as it is … let’s just think forward and make a space that people want to go to, that residents cherish and value,” said Heney.
Jonathon Liedtke is the managing editor of The Urbanite, Windsor’s alternative newspaper. He is also a member of Windsor’s “Punk with Horns” band The Nefidovs, and as such, is committed to enhancing and sustaining the arts community.