An ambitious plan to elevate the status of St. Thomas


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At Monday’s city council meeting, Matt Janes, representing On Track St. Thomas, will officially unveil plans to purchase and develop the Michigan Central Railway bridge over Kettle Creek at Sunset Drive. The bridge was constructed in 1929 and at one time carried over 140 trains every day.
In his deputation to council, Janes will announce a vision to honour one of the most iconic structures in southwestern Ontario through the creation of Canada’s first elevated park.
According to Janes, the St. Thomas Elevated Park Project is the single most ambitious undertaking of On Track St. Thomas, the community development organization that assured the preservation of the CASO station and brought the rail-themed murals to downtown.

Easterly view of the Michigan Central Railway bridge, which spans Kettle Creek, Fingal Line and Sunset Drive, clearly shows the massive concrete piers that support the bridge, built in 1929 and last used 2005. Tracks and ties were removed this year.


Janes points in his report that, along with the Elgin County Railway Museum and the restored CASO station, the MCR Kettle Creek bridge is a prominent reminder of the city’s status as the Railway Capital of Canada.
“It is a signature attraction for rail aficionados nationally and internationally,” Janes advises. “As a public place it will be a high profile addition to the CASO-Trans Canada Trail and offer stunning views of the Kettle Creek valley in all directions.
Janes continues, “The On Track vision for the MCR bridge goes much farther however. Through an international design competition, it will become Canada’s first elevated park, joining similar structures such as the High Line in Manhattan and the Boulevard Plantée in Paris.

“In short, it will be a major tourist attraction in its own right and a significant boost to the economic development of St. Thomas.”
Apparently, Phase One of this ambitious project is underway. A new board of directors of On Track St. Thomas has been planning for the purchase and stabilization of the MCR bridge in time for the December, 2012 closing date on the current offer to purchase.
According to Janes, the fundraising goal for this phase is $250,000. This will purchase the trestle bridge and all associated lands from King Street in the east to Munro Avenue in the west, a total distance of 1.6 km. It will also cover costs associated with surveys, environmental studies, initial stabilization work and insurance.
So, what will the elevated park mean for St. Thomas and Elgin.
Janes notes the project preserves an important rail asset for the Railway Capital of Canada and will add an outstanding piece to the CASO-Trans Canada Trail project.
In addition, the undertaking will create a new and unique park for St. Thomas, providing fitness and recreation opportunities and serve as a dramatic gateway entrance to the western approach to the city.
It will be one of a handful of elevated parks in existence around the world and a first for Canada – a “signature tourist attraction for the city and the entire region. A potent symbol of the transformation of the city’s economy.”
An intriguing and ambitious undertaking. Janes advises a full town- hall meeting will be held on Wednesday, Sept. 5 to present the plan to the public and to kick off the fundraising campaign.
Watch this corner for more details.

ANY BETS?
Might St. Thomas be the home of a future gaming facility?
The city has been pegged as a possible host municipality by the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation in a report released in May of this year.
The only glitch, we’re in the same identified zone as London, which has the Western Fair OLG slots facility.
In total, 29 gaming zones have been established throughout the province and within these zones an operator will be allowed to establish a new facility, operate the current facility or relocate existing facilities within the zone boundary.
The OLG report on expansion of private-sector gaming will be dealt with by council during their only meeting of the month.
Is their a desire to host a gaming facility in St. Thomas? If council expresses an interest, public consultations are required. Should we be going this route?
We welcome your input.

NEW HOME ANNOUNCEMENT
We understand Elgin-St. Thomas Public Health will shortly announce the location of their new home.
If you just can’t wait for the public announcement, their new digs will be on the south side of Talbot Street, just before you get to Centennial Avenue in the city’s east end.
It will have to be a quick build of their state-of-the-art, $10 million facility since their lease at 99 Edward St. expires in just over a year.
The fact their new address is not on a bus route has likely been dealt with at city hall via the tweaking of an existing route/schedule.
Is it true a lavish streetscape, atrium and roof-top garden are included in the plans?

TIMELY INFO

One of the unheralded innovations Voyageur has brought to the city since it took over operation of St. Thomas Transit on Jan. 1. is real-time bus arrival info.
It’s called NextBus and transit users simply visit http://www.nextbus.com and click on the St. Thomas Transit logo. Find the appropriate route and bus stop and up pops the times of the next three buses.
You can also call 226-212-0320 with your bus stop number – available on the website – and get a phone recording with the time of the next arrival.
Ain’t technology wonderful

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“I am always willing to meet with members of other parties, and I have had many such meetings in the past. Meeting in person, I find, is always preferable to communicating through the media.”
Ouch! Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, in a personal letter to Elgin-Middlesex-London PC MPP Jeff Yurek, is obviously miffed at his on-going efforts – via the media – to rectify the dangerous situation at the Elgin-Middlesex Detention Centre.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be emailed to ian.mccallum@sunmedia.ca

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