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'Key waterfront park': Heritage Park could be getting new look

Councillors approve, in principle, $11.2-million master plan report to redevelop waterfront park

Green spaces, walking paths, water features, and viewing decks could be the future look of Barrie’s Heritage Park.

City councillors gave approval Monday night, in principle, to a nearly $11.2-million master plan report to redevelop the waterfront park, located at the bottom of Mulcaster Street, fronting Simcoe Street.

“It is important to note Heritage Park will still be largely a passive park with places to stroll, rest and take in the scenery,” said Acting Mayor Barry Ward. “The changes proposed in the master plan will not change the nature of the park, just better meet the needs of Barrie residents for the next generations.”

Features also to be included are the pond and stream, two canoe and kayak launch areas, fireplaces, two lawns for events, bike racks, fishing piers, exercise equipment at two locations, the Heart Barrie sign, two parking areas, and washrooms.

“Heritage Park is a key waterfront park and one of Barrie’s most popular, both for passive enjoyment of our waterfront and for hosting events,” Ward said. “With Barrie’s growing population and the developments planned for the downtown area, it is better to update Heritage Park sooner rather than later, especially since the necessary work will require the park to be closed for a couple of summers.”

But its redevelopment is not a sure thing, as this is approval in principle.

Ward said if final approval is given by city council June 6, staff will have direction to start putting money in a capital plan for Heritage Park’s redevelopment. The staff report indicates work could begin in 2026 and take two years.

“But that will depend on availability of funding, since the city has many other competing priorities,” Ward said. “Of course, city council of the day, during budget discussions, will have the ultimate say when the project goes ahead. Councillors could always decide to delay the project or spend the money elsewhere.”

Barrie’s next mayor and 10 councillors will be elected Oct. 24.

Ward says the staff report makes it clear that Heritage Park is 30 years old and beginning to show its age.

“Much of the infrastructure needs to be replaced so the time is right to make some changes,” he said. “When Heritage Park was built, of course, it was impossible to know how it was going to be used. 

“We now have 30 years experience on, for example, holding events in the park and knowing what kind of spaces work best,” Ward added. “We have new accessibility requirements for everything from trails to washrooms. We have developed Meridian Square across Simcoe Street, so it is important to tie that park and our downtown into Heritage Park.

“We’ve heard from the public that they want better access to the shoreline, so such things as viewing platforms and kayak launch points could be added.”

The cost of redeveloping Heritage Park would be considered when preparing the 2023-2032, 10-year city capital plan, including an estimate of the annual operating expenses required once Heritage Park is redeveloped.

The Heart Barrie landmark sign is to be located directly on the entry axis to Heritage Park, as people come across Simcoe Street from Meridian Place. 

Heritage Park sits on a land infill project abutting the former rail bed which defined Kempenfelt Bay’s northern shoreline at the time. 

Infilling of this approximately 7.3-acre site began in the early 1970s, and the name Heritage Park was approved by city council in 1979.

The park’s development began in 1991, and included the construction of the artificial pond and stream, water sculpture courtyard with washrooms and the pump house, walkways, the gazebo, and horticultural display gardens.

The Sea Serpent sculpture was added in 2016. 

No major physical upgrades or master planning has occurred since Heritage Park’s original construction was completed more than 30 years ago.