Cambridge reverses course on Riverside Park dam

By  | March 7, 2018 | 27 Comments | Filed under: Announcements
News08:32 AMby Jeff Hicks Waterloo Region Record
Riverside Park Dam

Cambridge city council voted 8-0 on Tuesday night against a recommendation to rip out the Riverside Park Dam. – Peter Lee , Record staff file photo

CAMBRIDGE — Tear it down, a city-led team of environmental and engineering professionals concluded.

Rip out the 128-year-old Riverside Park Dam and naturalize the Speed River. Perform radical dam-removal surgery on the plump mill pond heart of a flour mill town and risk rendering its pleasing vistas unrecognizable.

And what did city council say in response? “We have the right to say no,” Mayor Doug Craig said as applause dominated a 100-spectator meeting of the general committee.

“And I’m saying no. I’m saying we rebuild the dam.”

Or the city might fix the crumbling dam, whose imminent failure is still awaited 10 years after being declared an impending disaster.

One way or the other — after an 8-0 vote splashed water all over the recommendation to rip out the dam after a six-year, $340,000 environmental assessment study — a dam will remain.

Councillors pledged, if the dam must fall, a new version will rise to take its place and honour its historic predecessor in the middle of a nationally celebrated park so dear to the city’s fishing-pole soul.

So what if it takes more time, as the mayor hinted, or ends up costing $5 million or $8.6 million. Costs be, well, dammed.

“I don’t care what the cost is,” said Connie Perchaluk, a former Preston resident who recently moved to Kitchener. “If you need another taxpayer, I’ll move back to Cambridge.”

So this was sudden victory for the persistent Save-the-Dam forces, all decked out for triumph, flashing the occasional red Preston pride T-shirt and yellow bow-tie.

It only took a thousand member Facebook group and a four-thousand signature petition and attendance at what seemed like an endless array of public meetings that often pointed to the same maddening conclusion.

Always, it felt like the orphaned dam — beloved by residents of Preston and beyond but disowned by the heirs of the still-operating flour mill it was built to serve across King Street — was doomed to be bulldozed.

The city may not own the dam but has taken ownership of its fate.

Now, the dam is praised, and not so near to being razed.

“I’m delighted that council finally saw the light,” said Carol Thorman, a passionate dam defender from Preston. “I’m a little disappointed they didn’t give the same direction to staff years ago.”

The authors of the dam’s demise were ordered to go back for a rewrite and re-evaluation that gives the dam’s heritage, tourism and cultural value more weight this time around. The study, found lacking in those areas of assessment by councillors, must be completed and filed. There’s no way around environment ministry rules.

But the report’s preferred alternative of naturalizing the river will not fly with this council, facing an election in October. It may be better for fish passage or the wavy-rayed lampmussel and silver shiner or flood control, but the people who flooded councillors with their save-the-dam messages appear to have won out.

Not all speakers on Tuesday were dam supporters.

“The natural river was here long before the dam and a has a natural beauty all its own,” argued Brad Hall of the city’s environmental advisory committee. “The naturalized river will be a great place to make new memories.”

Maybe so. But Preston’s sentimental heart beats with political thunder. Generations who’ve enjoyed Riverside Park and it’s dam-created mill pond insist that generations more should get to experience the same lazy-river tranquility.

Logically, there is no need for a dam any more. The flour mill doesn’t need it. Naturalization makes perfect sense. The hard facts make it seem like a slam dunk, Coun. Donna Reid conceded. Yet, the dam wins.

“Sometimes the obvious choice is not the best choice,” Reid said. “Sometimes, the best option is guided by the heart.”



27 Responses to Cambridge reverses course on Riverside Park dam

    Fedup March 7, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    Of course – Election year – did we just postpone this Dam until the Mayor & some Councillors need the Prestonians votes?? – really – how obvious is this!! I am personally glad it will be re-built. And after the waste of $350,000. – where does the waste stop in this City. The Post Office – bought at too high a price & renos far too much – the Bridge To Nowhere – the Cambridge sign put in wrong spot (if we need it at all) & now the water falls – I just wish we could work together & get things done right & properly.
    It is definitely an Election ploy – I sure hope the people in Preston realize this & still not vote for Craig – who was a big part of dragging this out for 9 years & now all of a sudden – no expense is too much$$ The crap just goes on & on$$$$$$
    So Donna if it is the “heart” we wish to follow – then lets do this with the Complex. Build in the heart of our City. I sure hope the new Mayor & some new Councillors can get on with this issue & quit fooling the people like the Dam stalling.
    People – wake up & smell the ****** – it just goes on & on.

      Cambridge Political Action Council March 8, 2018 at 3:10 pm

      Voting as a group for one common new Mayor of Cambridge would make all the difference in removing Wasteful Spending Doug Craig from office once and for all. Love to hear back from everyone on this idea.

    Cambridge Political Action Council March 7, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    Has Doug Craig Has Lost His Mind?

    Doug Craig is once again wasting more of your Property Taxes Dollars but Doug Craig does not care at all about you. As this is all about Doug Craig getting re-elected.

    This is the “Re-Election Game” and Doug Craig is out to get re-elected again for the 5th time. If he needs to spend “YOUR” money to do it well so be it.

    Doug Craig has been a just horrible mayor for the City of Cambridge.

    It is just one wasteful project after another. Let us count them up so far.
    1. Pedestrian Bridge $1.4 Million
    2. Cambridge Sign $50 Thousand
    3. Home Depot Fountain (Cost Undetermined)
    4. Riverside Park Dam $8.6 Million
    5 We Still do not have the GO TRAIN
    6. Downtown Galt looks like a “GHETTO” with its many empty stores and homeless people
    7. Roundabouts have been a “DISASTER” for traffic flow down Franklin Blvd.
    8. The “DRUG” problem has not been solved by Doug Craig because these people do not vote.
    9. The MULTIPLEX is a project which again Doug Craig has screwed up trying to make a deal with the College
    10. Now Doug Craig is giving $500,000 to the College so they will relocate to Cambridge. Another waste of money, and what deal does Doug Craig have with the College?

    Doug Craig should have completed the GO Train Project but he lacks the know how to complete a major project like this so he works on these small projects that he knows how to complete. This is what is called appealing to the lowest common denominator for his voters.

    And these costs just keep on adding up, but who cares? Doug Craig does not care at all!

    Let me make it as clear to you as I can “Doug Craig does not care about how much money he spends because of it is your money, not Doug Craigs.

    This is Election Year and make no doubt about it that Doug Craig and his council of clowns will spend as much of your Property Tax Dollars to get their jobs back for another 4 years.

    Now wait until 2019 and then you will see how much your property taxes have increased because of this wasteful spending.

    If Doug Craig and his council of clowns are watching me well, I will be hounding you until election day and beyond

    Cyril B. March 7, 2018 at 5:50 pm

    We fish at the Park but the water is so shallow and backed up with mud from the dam fishing is poor and the water smells. All those years looking into this and they do it before an election. It tells me the Mayor wants Preston to vote for him. This stinks of politics.

      Cambridge Political Action Council March 8, 2018 at 3:09 pm

      Voting as a group for one common new Mayor of Cambridge would make all the difference in removing Wasteful Spending Doug Craig from office once and for all. Love to hear back from everyone on this idea.

    Maggie March 7, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    Yes Cyril – & if they had gone natural – as Donna Reid had wanted at last meeting we attended in Preston – it would have gotten worse.
    Look at Fisher Mills Dam – well they did natural there & now there is just weeds. We used to fish, boat, swim, ice skate & pick lily pads – now nothing at all! Gone!
    So glad the Dam in Preston will be re-built. About 9 years late & a waste of $350,000. consulting/engineer fees. (of course not done yet is it?)
    But people of Preston – please note this is just a timely plot by Craig to get Preston votes$$$ Wake up!
    He has already fooled Galt people – now working on the Preston voters$$$$$
    He doesn’t give a damn about the Dam – he is just after votes.

      Cambridge Political Action Council March 8, 2018 at 3:09 pm

      Voting as a group for one common new Mayor of Cambridge would make all the difference in removing Wasteful Spending Doug Craig from office once and for all. Love to hear back from everyone on this idea.

    Tom Vann March 7, 2018 at 10:15 pm

    Main point Maggie is “it’s not done yet”. To make it natural again it would shrink to half size Cyril. The smart move would be to put a sleuth in for high water or to remove mud that chokes life and retains goose shit in the river. Definite election move to gobble Preston votes. Balance the Galt vrs Preston spending and after 20 more damn rebuild costs dollar wise for Preston and the spending balance will be near even. Remember…election year baby kissers and photo opp politicians are out in full color, and they love everyone. Look for Regional do nothings from Cambridge to take credit or have a photo shot done soon. Keep watch how many council members get interviewed and or get their pictures in the papers in the coming 5 months. Maybe Pam Wolf will be whining on page 1 about an election sign getting tipped over. Her campaign manager should lock the wine cabinet soon. 3 months to go before Mann and Monterio get to prove all those lies and affidavits from cops were just made up, jealous, stupid, mixed up people.

      Cambridge Political Action Council March 8, 2018 at 12:31 pm

      Wait ago for Pam and her wine! I am waiting for Pam to invite me over for a few drinks then I would ask her to drive me home. Then she would have her second DUI. You do know “WASTEFUL SPENDING DOUG CRAIG loves to waste our money on these election ploys.

    Gary Worton March 8, 2018 at 12:22 pm

    Sorry to be a balloon-bursting, parade-raining wet blanket, but as a Preston resident of over 25 years, I consider the Riverside Park Dam to be nothing short of a blight on the landscape; an eyesore! Not to mention an inconvenience to would-be park users in winter. Just imagine being able to use the park all year round instead of it becoming the 6th great lake.
    I also fail to see the historic or tourist value. Do we see hordes of tourists flocking to Preston to take selfies with the damned dam in the background every year? Not! It’s not quite Niagara Falls you know!
    Incidentally, although a Ward 1 resident, I am no Donna Reid fan, nor Doug Craig either. Neither will get my vote.

      Cambridge Political Action Council March 8, 2018 at 3:08 pm

      Voting as a group for one common new Mayor of Cambridge would make all the difference in removing Wasteful Spending Doug Craig from office once and for all. Love to hear back from everyone on this idea.

    Cambridge Political Action Council March 8, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Gary: Would you be interested in joining a task-specific group. We are organizing a political action group including Tom Vann. We are organizing to make changes in Cambridge City Council. Let me know!

    Jerry Lewin March 8, 2018 at 2:50 pm

    I live in Blair and visit Riverside Park about ten times a year. During the winter and early spring we stay away other than to use the trails. That leaves us with summer and fall to enjoy the park. You are correct Mr. Worton, the water over the park is a problem easily solved by allowing it to drain with a gate or by-pass. During the hot summer days stagnant water and floating items settle near shore attracting mosquitoes and other insects. The water moves very slowly and smells bad. I don’t know if dredging would help, or narrowing the damn. I was told there is about four feet of mud under the water. This is not good. I love the park but am not so sure this damn replacement idea is proper without modifications. A good turn-out at city hall though. I see we have similar thoughts on the mayor.

      Cambridge Political Action Council March 8, 2018 at 3:07 pm

      Voting as a group for one common new Mayor of Cambridge would make all the difference in removing Wasteful Spending Doug Craig from office once and for all. Love to hear back from everyone on this idea.

    Tom Vann March 8, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    hello Gary. Nice to hear your comments about the dam. I for one feel this damn blocks too much water that backs up the flow and as you state floods badly. Many communities have allowed rivers to return to normal flow rates. I however think regulating the flow somehow would be best. This would shrink the river and returning the banks to create a stronger current. Putting in a sleuth or gate would be my choice to drain the sediment and return it to a gravel (rock) base. Look at the grand since the sleuths were closed at Park hill. No more boats poorer sport fishing and more due to the silt buildup at the dam. Over reaction due to a pair of tragic deaths. Building a dam just to build a dam is wrong. A proper dam would benefit Preston far greater. Then again city hall would have to think about something proper. Dare I ask for this? Look for Donna to take credit for this dam, but we know different.
    As for being a member of Cambridge Political Action Council….I am not a member.
    Nor am I a part of the cabinet meetings.
    Our group is under another name.

    We have a group of around 20 people that have worked behind the scenes on a number of fronts to promote progressive change and election momentum. My wife has lightened up some this past week or so to the idea of me running in a ward.

    I will only do so if she is on board. I may have to dine her.

    Gary, your comments are always worth reading. I’m off to a meeting…until then.

    Randy Toner March 8, 2018 at 6:01 pm

    l agree. Get rid of Craig and Reid.

    Rose Clarke March 8, 2018 at 10:21 pm

    Riverside Park has been a place for our family picnics for many years. The city needs to clean up the pond and stream to the river. I recall Council member Reid was going to let the dam fail and return it to natural settings. Now because of an election year she is interested in fixing it. Keep the park for our children to enjoy.

    Asking March 9, 2018 at 10:12 am

    Love it that we have an election year this year. Interesting to see how members of Council like to ‘flip flop’ their opinions on a subject…All of a sudden they ‘listen’ to the residents?? I think they are trying to ‘buy’ the vote for the election in October…any other people agree with my theory?

    Watching March 9, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    Rose – you hit the nail on the head!! Election year. I was told to watch the crap from now on & now I know what they meant. Yes Donna was all for “Natural” & yes they can change their mind – but did she?? Or did someone change it for her??? I think she had it changed for her – why – you got it – Craig wants back in & he wants the Preston votes$$$$
    Wake up Preston – you have just been sucked in – the Dam isn’t built yet. Beware! As you can see – the Mayor & Councillors can still change their minds.
    Preston Park has always been a busy & well-used park. Let’s fix the Dam.
    Just keep your eye on events Rose & see how City Hall operates under Craig.

    Randy Toner March 12, 2018 at 5:43 pm

    Growing up locally l found trusting people was easy. Since most were local everyone knew each other and the population was less. I have grown tired of politicians telling us lies and not doing what they promised. The damn in Preston will probably just get a cheap fix. l don’t trust Doug Craig one bit.

      Cambridge Political Action Council March 13, 2018 at 8:05 pm

      Randy, grow up, the dam will be replaced because it is election time and that damn Doug Craig will replace it because he bribing us with our own money. What a God damn worm!

      Tim March 14, 2018 at 2:59 pm

      Actually I am inclined to agree with you Randy. Yes now the mayor and the minions have agreed to ‘repair’ the dam when in actual fact the dam should be rebuilt and done properly. They need to put automatic floodgates in the dam so that the risk of flooding to Riverside Park is minimal and so that the silt that is in there has somewhere to go rather than build up. If this is done properly which I am sure it won’t everyone would be happy. But I have to agree with you, it will probably be a ‘cheap fix’ because the mayor has other things on his agenda.
      If you want to really make a difference at election time..go to the polling station and get out and cast your ballot. Do not vote online at all…if you go to the polling station and cast your ballot you know your vote will count.

    Randy Toner March 14, 2018 at 3:35 pm

    l will vote Tim and won’t vote online l might screw it up. Floodgates sounds like the best idea. The Mayor needs to spend money for Preston but it looks like he just gave away almost half a million dollars to a Galt store. l hope it gets fixed right.

    Tom Vann March 14, 2018 at 9:30 pm

    Ahh yes Preston. The second class city as per money spent by city hall. With Donna’s flip and Doug’s election year spending trickle for Preston April fools day comes early. Proof will be in the pudding for a state of the art dam or a backyard rebuild. Remember nothing is done yet and won’t be done for some time. Randy, This city is broke and I believe the money for this store came from reserve funds which happens often in Cambridge. Downtown tells me tons of back taxes are owed to city hall and we have no money except for pet projects. We’re still paying for the theater, post office and….. So much will come out during the election Dyke will have to carry a fire extinguisher. Interesting how out of town costs, and work are coming from. Hespeler will get a new flag once again to cover their share of taxes I assume. Look for culture spending to increase for Galt as well. Ah yes… balance.

    Watching March 16, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    How can they use Reserve money for a “building” when they refused to use any of it to reduce our tax rate in Cambridge.
    Is it the old story – “not what you know – but who you know” – like who owns the building & do they have influence over our Mayor & Council.
    You know people in Cambridge are really struggling & the City gives our Tax Dollars to a private bldg. for repairs.
    I am really confused.
    Gee maybe the Mayor owns it??$$

    Bud Travis March 19, 2018 at 6:38 pm

    Getting a bit lonely here in Preston. Council members not replying and no money being spent. Time for change.

    Concerned March 19, 2018 at 10:14 pm

    We hear they are going to mess up your main street. Take parking off of it. Why? You have the best main street around. That will only mess up the stores. Where do they get these crazy ideas. And something down the middle of the street – really – why? Another crazy idea from people that don’t think.
    Look at the mess they made of downtown Hespeler – the raised area for parking – how dumb is that & in the winter the plows can’t plow – what Engineer dreamed this mess up.
    Bud – just watch this Dam re-build is just an election ploy. After Oct. there will be some reason why it cannot be done.
    Look at the mess the Mayor is making out of the Complex – he wants it at Conestoga – all of it or part of it at least.
    Please tell your friends to not vote for Craig in Oct. We need just one more good person to run against him. And we want paper ballots.
    Watch the Council meeting is you can’t get there – you sure learn a lot. And it has been know that parts of the meetings disappear – interesting isn’t this!!!!$
    Just watch what goes on – where the money is wasted & the crazy projects.
    Good luck Preston.

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