LaSalle contemplates Strawberry Festival move, as flood woes persist

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Waves batter the shore of Lake Erie along Cotterie Park Road on May 8, 2019.


Dax Melmer / Windsor Star

Ongoing flooding woes have claimed another victim locally.

LaSalle’s riverfront Gil Maure Park has been shut down for upcoming events, forcing relocation of a major car show with the town’s premier event — the annual Strawberry Festival — also on the verge of being moved elsewhere.

Town council will hold a special meeting Thursday afternoon to vote on an administration recommendation to relocate the festival, scheduled for June 6th through the 9th, to the Vollmer Centre. The festival would essentially be staged in parking lots surrounding the town’s arena.

“The high water level of the Detroit River and ground surface saturation has affected the waterfront in LaSalle including Gil Maure Park, the boat launch, parking at the waterfront and portions at the end of Laurier Rd.,” said Julie Columbus, the town’s director of culture and recreation.

“The puddling throughout the parkland and water-soaked property will negatively affect the setup and safe operations of the Strawberry Festival. Staff are recommending to council to relocate the festival this year.”

Already relocated from Gil Maure Park, due to its saturated conditions, is the annual CAN-AM car show scheduled for Sunday.

The 45th annual event backed by Windsor Area Street Rods Inc., which draws up to 300 vehicles each year, has been shifted to the nearby parking lot of Reaume Chevrolet Buick dealership located at 500 Front Rd.

Should the Strawberry Festival be relocated by council, added costs to the town for shifting it to Vollmer would add up to about $45,000, according to the administration report.

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A shuttle bus service is being contemplated to help visitors reach the festival. Those types of details won’t be finalized until council council formally approves relocation.

Escalating winds on Wednesday lead to the Essex Region Conservation Authority to issue yet another flood warning for several areas across Windsor and Essex County.

Everyone should continue to monitor and prepare for these types of conditions

The worst areas of flooding were occurring in portions of Leamington along Lake Erie between Wheatley Harbour and Point Pelee — a constant spot of saturation over the past several weeks.

Several other areas were impacted with a risk of flooding throughout the day, stretching across the Lake Erie shoreline and the mouth of the Detroit River, according to ERCA.

Portions of Kingsville, Amherstburg and Essex were all at risk, along with portions of the riverfront in Windsor along the Detroit River and Little River corridor.

“It’s many of the same areas (previously impacted in recent weeks),” said James Bryant, water resources engineer for ERCA.

“The winds are a little bit different this time out of the southeast. But we have elevated lake levels and we should see splash and spray caused by the winds until mid-afternoon. After that, we expect it might die down a little bit.”

ERCA’s flood warning was to remain in place for the effected areas until 10 a.m. on Thursday.

Lake Erie’s latest water levels are 75 centimetres (26.5 inches) above average and 12 cm (4.7 inches) above the record high for this time of year set in May 1986.

And there is no anticipated relief in sight for anyone in southwestern Ontario located near the Great Lakes, which continue to reach levels not seen in decades.

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Concerns are being expressed over the continuing outflow from Lake Superior and upper Lake Huron regions where ice and snow-related runoff is only just beginning due to the prolonged chilly temperatures this spring.

“It’s a topic of conversation for us on outflows from Lake Superior coming our way,” Bryant said. “That’s why we are really monitoring water levels. Typically, it peaks in June or July.

“With additional rainfall in our basin that will really add to our concern on these high levels. Everyone should continue to monitor and prepare for these types of conditions.”

Related

In Leamington, continued flooding woes are putting pressure on the town’s budget, with crews frequently called out to aid with cleanup, keep roads clear and assist flooded property owners with drainage.

While a lot of drainage work gets charged back to individual property owners, there have been unexpected employee overtime costs with no end in sight due to high lake levels.

“We are concerned with weather events,” said Leamington Mayor Hilda MacDonald. “We try to budget accordingly. Maybe our winter will be milder and recoup some costs. Weather is always a concern for us whether winter or spring.

“Until these water levels go down there is not a lot you can do. You can have breakwalls, but when the water is so high its just goes over, that doesn’t help you. The only thing we can do is mitigate as best we can. That’s life when you are on the water — some years are good ones and some are bad.”

City of Windsor officials last week announced it was shutting its Lakeview Marina docks for the entire summer due to high water levels on the Detroit River.

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The city is continuing to make sandbags available to residents living in a specified area along Riverside Drive East, but beginning Thursday anyone wanting sandbags will be required to call 311 and set up a time at the station, located at 9410 Little River Rd.

dbattagello@postmedia.com

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