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Navy League looks to set sail from its Simcoe Street location

With potential revitalization of Heritage Park planned, the property has become a hot commodity, says Navy League official

Heritage Park, one of Barrie's most prominent waterfront spaces, is currently going through a master plan process.

Three concepts have been developed for the 7.3-acre waterfront park, located on Simcoe Street, meant to stimulate conversation; the city is accepting input until June 11.

The conversation has sparked speculation about what should be done about the Navy League/Sea Cadets boathouse at 9 Simcoe St., at the foot of Bayfield Street.

The building, which sits across from Heritage Park, could become a hot commodity as the city ponders how to revitalize the popular lakeside park area.

In December of 2019, city council asked city staff to investigate potential partnerships in support of relocating the Sea Cadets building to the south shore. 

Diane Chislett, the facilities and community liaison for the Navy League, said she is waiting on word from council about the future of her organization. 

“We are still in the Waterfront Master Plan to be moved over to the north side of South Shore Centre, a similar set up as to what the Barrie Canoe and Kayaking and the Barrie Rowing Clubs have on the lower levels,” said Chislett.

“I have been in contact with the City of Barrie Task Force reporting on the waterfront, and I have been advised by Mayor (Jeff) Lehman that we are awaiting a reply on a business proposal about the re-location.”

On May 27, the City of Barrie held a virtual public meeting to show conceptual designs for the park. While still in the very early stages, the city has asked for public input in a survey that closes June 11. Results of the survey will be taken to council in the fall.

At the beginning of May 2021, city council considered a confidential staff report on the fate of the Navy League building, as issues concerning potential disposition or acquisition of property are discussed in closed session.

At that meeting, council provided confidential direction to the Chief Administrative Officer on the matter. 

Being a closed door meeting, information on what was discussed in the conversations is unknown.

Chislett said the city has owned the boat house ever since Navy League trustees signed it over to the municipality in 2016.

“We have not been able to use our boat house to our normal operating procedures with allowing the Cadets to sail during June to September. We have used it for outside meetings and renovations,” said Chislett. “We are following the County of Simcoe/City of Barrie lockdown guidelines until they are lifted. We really are hoping to have some summer sailing program there.”  

The Navy League Cadet Corps are for ages 9 to 12 and at age 12 they can choose to go onto Air, Army or Sea where they then must age out at 19. 

“Cadets as a whole is an outstanding organization that teaches youth, leadership, communications, and discipline,” said Chislett. “They are taught to respect themselves and others, to be part of the community, and to give back as much as they receive.” 

Some of the cadets have gone to Europe on an Education trip to visit five Countries and visit sites such as Vimy, Juno Beach, Beaumont Hamel Newfoundland Memorial, Groesbeek Canadian War Cemetery, Passchendaele Museum, The Anne Frank Museum, and a Concentration Camp. 

Ward 2 councillor Keenan Aylwin told BarrieToday he sees the piece of property as having a lot of potential for the future.

“I’m hopeful that we can come up with a vision for the property that includes high-quality public space and enhances the waterfront experience for residents and visitors alike. Ideas such as a restaurant and/or a visitors' centre have been raised by members of the community,” said Aylwin. “I think there’s a lot of potential on this site to create something that brings the community together on our beautiful waterfront.”

Chislett said the main issue with the current location is that it has become prime real estate. 

“The location is ideal for so many options, which is why the city is looking at it as it is beside the marina, close to downtown, close to businesses, the new YMCA, and Memorial Square,” said Chislett. “Our lease with the city will run out in approximately 25 years and construction may take a long time.” 

Chislett said the proposal for moving has been in the works for over 30 years.

“I am, however, extremely determined to see this happening within the next five years or less. We have no heat or water facilities, so we have our own porta-potties which we are still seeking a reasonable quote to have pumped this year,” said Chislett.  

Aylwin said talks are in very early stages and that there is no clear timeline on the matter. 

“Like always, city council is focused on how to animate and enhance our downtown and waterfront,” said Aylwin.


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Shawn Gibson

About the Author: Shawn Gibson

Shawn Gibson is a staff writer based in Barrie
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