In late 2003, I wrote a series of articles about Fort Erie for the Downtowner, a magazine that is now called Niagara Life. At the time, I reported that Fort Erie was on the cusp of greatness, that the planets seemed to have aligned to give Fort Erie a bright future.
One article centered around the great shoreline and the efforts to keep as much of it public and environmentally sound. Marcy's Woods had just been purchased by a developer and many people were worried that he would develop the property, thus putting important flora and fauna at risk. There was even a demonstration that went all the way to Queen's Park. As it turns out, the developer kept his promise to keep the property in its pristine condition as planned by its namesake owner, Dr. William Marcy. The DiCienzo Family has turned Marcy's Woods into a model for careful stewardship of the land.
Attention was then turned to Crystal Beach where there was but a rather small portion of the beach that was still public. The owners of the Crystal Beach Tennis and Yacht Club not only retained the beach from the former amusement park, they placed huge boulders on the sand to deter anyone from even walking the shores. This caused a lot of upset in the community and it widened the divide between the locals and the summer residents. Two years earlier, the town had purchased the former Bay Beach Properties from the Rebstock Family which gave people new hope that there would be a great beach and parkland for the public's use. Derelict buildings were torn down and the area cleaned up. A parking lot was placed on the south side of the properties as a temporary measure until funds could be gathered to complete a redesigned park.
So, that was where my article ended. It was on a hopeful note for the future of Fort Erie, especially its shoreline. There were other articles too, all praising Fort Erie's uniqueness and diversity.
What happened to that hope?
It seems to me that certain elected and non-elected officials of this town lost sight of what was best for the people and favoured the plans of a couple of developers who were only in it for the money and not to better the community. The village of Crystal Beach had already suffered through the development of the former amusement park lands into a gated community. After all, even the town planner didn't live in Fort Erie and the developers certainly didn't either.
Thus began the long road to where we are today. The pandering to certain developers went into high gear when Doug Martin was elected mayor in 2006. The town became race track centric and everything else seemed to be forced into the background. Developers bragged that they could get "anything they wanted" in Fort Erie. (A perfect example of this is the development at the end of Hibbard Street near Prospect Point Road where the well-known developer had an "oopsie" and failed to provide enough space for a proper driveway.) How did these things happen?
One answer is Lack of Leadership. That's the simple one. The other is far more complex and much darker.
The people elected four councillors in 2010 with the hopes that some of these problems would be addressed and corrected. Doug Martin and some town staff did everything in their power to obstruct the effort to bring fairness back to town hall.
Fortunately Doug Martin will soon be gone, but he leaves a legacy of nastiness, unfairness and possible wrongdoing behind. He has also anointed his successor and a cadre of candidates that will continue his legacy.
Fort Erie could still have a bright future. Vote for the people who stood up for you - not against you.
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