Our Position on Project Niagara

The Harmony Residents Group believes:

  1. There must be a better location for a summer music festival

  2. There must be a better use for the site

We are:

  1. Concerned about impacts to the environment

  2. Nervous about impacts to residents

  3. Skeptical about the benefits

  4. Worried about the costs

As an alternative, we propose a Natural Heritage Park be established to protect and preserve the site, to present its natural and heritage treasures, and to capitalize on the growing ecotourism industry.

To view a slideshow summarizing our concerns, click here.
To view further details of our position, click here.
To view details on our alternative vision, click here
To view a slideshow of our alternative vision, click here.
Select "download" at the bottom of the page.
Our Petition
If you share our view, please "sign" our petition, by copying the following text into an e-mail and sending it to

I/we oppose the site proposed for the Project Niagara music festival. A music festival on the proposed site will: 1) cost too much; 2) impact negatively on the environment; 3) impact the quality of life of Niagara-on-the-Lake residents; 4) impact negatively on visitors. There must be a better location for Project Niagara, one that does not engender the above issues. I/we would like to see the site used in a way that is more in keeping with its environmental sensitivity and heritage importance.


Project Niagara Feasibility Study

Please see "What is Project Niagara?" for a synopsis of the Feasibility Study.

The full study is available at:

Our Analysis

The study says that Project Niagara is both feasible and sustainable. On the surface, it describes an appealing cultural event, thoughtful plans, careful analysis, and attractive financial benefits.

It also confirms that this is an expensive, high-risk proposition. Details from the study reveal:

  1. Commercial success depends on strong linkage with the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
  2. To achieve that tie in, the schedule is aggressive, with many parallel activities, and a presumption that no issues will arise from environmental assessments and traffic studies.
  3. The cost estimates are preliminary.
  4. Fund raising will be challenging.
  5. Sustainable operations require ongoing fund raising of $5 million per year.
  6. Attendance projections are optomistic. The economic impact analysis was conducted before the current downtown, from which some experts predict it will take years to recover. A recent Ipsos-Reuters survey found that 72% of households have cut back on spending, with entertainment and vacations as the top targets.

We believe the benefits are also over-stated. The majority of the jobs created will be low-paying, part-time seasonal positions. Also, the study assumes 79% of visitors will come from other parts of Canada. So while there may be benefit to the Niagara Region, expenditures on Project Niagara will be money diverted from entertainment and vacation spending elsewhere in the country. It will not be generating net new economic growth.

To view further details click here and select "download" at the bottom of the page.

Where is Government?

Niagara-on-the-Lake Town Council and Niagara Regional Council have both passed motions supporting Project Niagara in principle. The Ontario Ministries of Culture and Tourism have partially funded work on Project Niagara to date. Parks Canada has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the proponents, agreeing to further explore Project Niagara.

To date, no level of government has published a comprehensive plan to:
  1. Obtain input from the public
  2. Address questions and concerns
  3. Define a process for making decisions

We are asking elected officials in all levels of government to ensure:

  1. That any development of the Parks Canada land on Lakeshore Road be done in a way that is:
    - respectful of the natural and historic sites
    - environmentally sound
    - has a neutral impact to the flora and fauna
  2. The proposed music festival has a neutral impact to the quality of life of Niagara-on-the-Lake residents
  3. The proposed festival has a neutral-to-positive impact to Niagara-on-the-Lake ratepayers
  4. The potential benefits are realistic and achievable
For further details click on the links below and select "download" from the bottom of the page:

Deputation March 10
Deputation May 1
Deputation July 28
Deputation November 17 Appendix 1 Appendix 2
Parks Canada presentation on Environmental Assessments

If you share our views, please call or write to decision-makers in all levels of government.

In the News ...

Create A ‘Tecumseh National Park’ Right Here Along The Lakeshores Of Niagara
JOHN BACHER, Niagara at Large, March 23, 2010

Click here for full text.

Sprawling Greenlands In Niagara-on-the-Lake Should Be Site Of An Eco-Park – Not A Music Festival

RANDY BUSBRIDGE, Niagara At Large, February 24, 2010
Click here for full text.

Opening up the waterfront
MATTHEW VAN DONGEN, St. Catharines Standard, December 15, 2009
Local leaders are searching for ways to provide more public access to Niagara's waterfront, including buying shoreline on both Great Lakes.

The Region began working this month on a Lakefront Enhancement Strategy designed to make it easier for residents to reach and use Niagara's 117 kilo-metres of waterfront.
Niagarans are virtually surrounded by water, including two Great Lakes and the Niagara River, but public ownership is limited and "access is uncertain at best," according to a recent report presented to regional council.

"My personal view is that there is room for more public ownership of our lakeshores," said Regional Chairman Peter Partington, who is championing the planned strategy to municipal mayors. "Every resident should have access to clean beaches, for example... but public access, in whatever form, is the goal."

The Region has set aside $1 million for potential land purchases, "but it doesn't have to be land acquisitions," said Patrick Robson, commissioner of integrated community planning. "There are many opportunities to bring lakefront property into the public realm."

Trails, municipal right-of-ways, hydro corridors and conservation easements are just a few of the less pricey options the Region and local municipalities can explore, Robson said.

The Region expects consulting firm OEB Enterprise to conduct phase one of the strategy, including developing a set of "guiding principles and goals" that may include:
-Increasing public ownership of waterfront lands.
-Establishing lakefront uses that benefit the most people.
-Protecting the shoreline environment.
-Preserving shoreline heritage.

There's plenty of work to do. The Region doesn't yet have an inventory of public or publicly accessible waterfront land in Niagara. Regional planner Ken Forgeron has estimated about 35 per cent of the Lake Ontario Waterfront Trail through Niagara is actually on the water.

In St. Catharines, city staff estimate about half of the waterfront is in municipal hands.

Wallace Reid and his wife Mavis were out enjoying some of it Monday, strolling along the lakeside trail in Westcliffe Park.

Reid, 88, is a big fan of the trails in the north end of the city.

"It seems like they're constantly building new ones," said the regular trail walker, pointing in particular to the newly opened Port Weller spit trail.

"That's one of the nicest walks along the lake you'll find anywhere. You won't find any better."

Partington said the region as a whole has some wonderful beaches and trails. But in the past, Partington said, local governments "may have taken the lakeshore for granted."

He also pointed to "missed opportunities" to make lake access easier for residents.

For example, the Region was asked to buy a rare old-growth forest in Fort Erie, Marcy's Woods, several years ago, but it was sold instead to a private developer. The Region also tried and failed to buy the former Easter Seals camp in Wainfleet.

In future, Partington said, he hopes the Region and local cities and towns can agree on a "waterfront vision" that will help guide potential land acquisitions.

The Niagara Peninsula Conservation Authority has a lands acquisition strategy, but it doesn't focus particularly on waterfront property, said agency head Tony D'Amario.

D'Amario said the authority supports the fledgling regional strategy and expects to play a role in its development.

"Considering the amount of waterfront we have, there aren't that many places for public access, especially on Lake Erie," he said.

There are looming opportunities to reconnect residents with the Great Lakes.

The NPCA is just beginning to develop land in Jordan Harbour for trail-walkers and canoeists, for example.

Hundreds of acres of federally owned lakefront property in Niagara-on-the-Lake, off-limits for decades, may be opened to the public in the near future, too. The former military property is the proposed location for a controversial new music festival and amphitheatre. Local residents have countered with a proposal to turn the land into an eco-park.

Partington said one way or another, that stretch of lake-shore "has the potential to become more open to public use."

A preliminary staff report on the initiative is expected to come to regional council early in the new year.

In the meantime, a budget of about $20,000 is expected to give the consulting firm a head start gathering information.

Partington and several waterfront mayors will meet Wednesday to talk about the strategy.

Tranquility threatened, residents tell forum
JAMES BRADSHAW, Globe and Mail, July 27, 2009
For the first time, residents of Niagara-on-the-Lake engaged in a full-scale public debate on Project Niagara. Last week's meeting (which lasted a vigorous four hours) was the first of several such forums as the proposed music festival takes shape - and as the community decides whether to embrace it.

New details unveiled to the public by project organizers may have won over some fence-sitters. But there remains a determined cadre of locals who would prefer not to see the proposed 17-week, 50-concert summer music festival come to town each summer.

Nearly 300 people packed the gymnasium of a public high school to hear presentations from Project Niagara's brass and to raise their concerns, a format that will be repeated every three to four months while the event is being debated.

Residents remain divided on the plan. The Harmony Residents Group, which counts some 600 members, has been vocal in its opposition. But while their members, and other detractors, dominated the forum, a newly formed group of supporters, Community Builders, recently attracted nearly 400 people to their inaugural meeting.

Kari Cullen, Project Niagara's manager, assured last week's assembly that the festival "intends to be a good neighbour" and trumpeted the allure of a world-class music festival in Canada. But the primary focus of the evening was a traffic study commissioned by Project Niagara and executed by Ontario-based international consultants Delcan, which dominated the question-and-answer period.

Residents repeatedly questioned the accuracy and scope of the study's findings. Project manager Nick Palomba remained adamant that the calculations are based on "worse than worst-case" assumptions.

Doug Stewart of Parks Canada, meanwhile, answered a proposal from the Harmony Group to turn the federally-owned 108.5-hectare site targeted for the festival into an eco-park instead. He said Project Niagara would be the catalyst for improving and opening up the land, closed to the public for decades, and it's unlikely the government would invest in the site without it. (Parks Canada is studying how to use the 80 hectares not occupied by Project Niagara.) For his part, Project Niagara architect Bruce Kuwabara - who also designed the nearby Jackson-Triggs winery - tried to spur the crowd to look to the town's future. "It's a great town, and it's changed. History doesn't freeze dry. This place is dynamic," he said.

Yet Gracia Janes, a member of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Conservancy, wasn't sold: "Where can we all get these rose-coloured glasses," she asked, wondering aloud what it would take for organizers to abandon their plans.

Many other residents at the meeting made impassioned pleas about the intrusions they suffer at the hands of the town's other tourist attractions, drawing applause.

But one onlooker was disappointed with the questioning. "A small town at its worst," he said. "I haven't heard one word about vision."

The National Arts Centre and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra joined forces five years ago to create Project Niagara, which would feature the NAC and TSO as well as other international orchestras, jazz, blues, pop, opera and world music acts. The festival would need $76.5-million in capital funding and would operate on a $20-million annual budget raised from its own revenues and the private sector.

The federal and provincial governments have yet to decide whether to grant $25.5-million each in capital funding.

Ecopark pitched over music festival for NOTL site
Posted By Suzanne Mason Special to The Standard
Posted May 26, 2008

NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE — An ecopark has been proposed as an alternative to a large-scale music festival on Parks Canada land in Niagara-on-the-Lake to attract tourists year-round and more young families to the area.

Harmony Residents Group spokesman Randy Busbridge told town council Monday that the Lakeshore Road site is ideal for an ecopark with its unique history and natural resources.
“Niagara-on-the-Lake needs such a park,” he said. “We are one of the most deforested towns in the province. We have limited waterfront access.”

Busbridge said an ecopark would help protect the natural resources on the property and stimulate education, research and rehabilitation efforts. “The shoreline is eroding, wetlands and creeks need rehabilitation, forests need enhancement and habitats must be preserved,” he said.

Busbridge said the town could capitalize on a rapidly growing green tourism market since nature and heritage are the main reasons that people visit the Niagara region. He also said provincial studies show that these visitors stay longer, spend more money and tend to visit year-round.

Busbridge says his group envisions a modest building that would feature an interpretive centre, information kiosks and a public meeting space similar to the facilities at Balls Falls.

“Our goal would be to minimize the human footprint with controlled access to sensitive areas,” he said, adding that capital and operating costs would be minimal.

Potential sources of revenue identified by the group are partnerships with educational institutions and conservation groups, fundraising, facility rental and public memberships. Busbridge said expansion could be tied to education and research projects.

He said an ecopark would benefit the community as a whole, complement existing attractions and stimulate new business opportunities.

“The development of a similar park in Annapolis, Maryland actually attracted young families to the area,” he added.

Busbridge said a non-profit foundation could be established to run the park in partnership with Parks Canada. He said his group has approached Parks Canada with its proposal and has been asked to develop more concrete plans.

Coun. Jack Lowrey asked Busbridge if he thought there would be room for both a music festival and an ecopark on the property.

“The other proposal is more invasive. We’re presenting this as an alternative,” he said to loud applause from the public gallery.

Project Niagara, a partnership between the National Arts Centre Orchestra and the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, hopes to build a $50-million amphitheatre and attract 250,000 visitors to shows from June to September.

Spending Priorities

Economy, jobs top poll
Posted May 30, 2009

Jobs and the economy should be the federal government's top priority, but health care is where Canadians want to see it spend more money. In fact, most Canadians want to see the government spend less to bail out individual industries, even if it is to save jobs.

A Leger Marketing public opinion poll released to Sun Media found nothing else even came close when respondents were asked where the government should focus.

Overall, 42% of respondents said jobs and the economy should be the main priority, with health care coming in a distant second at 14%. The preoccupation with jobs was the highest in Ontario, where 49% said it should be the priority. The highest support for health care (25%) was in Quebec.

"When you go back several years, the number one issue that would be the main priority is often health care," said David Scholz, vice-president of Leger Marketing. "Now you see almost half of Canada, 49% in Ontario, say that jobs and the economy are number one.

"Fighting poverty, education, cutting taxes and crime and justice got some support, but a dozen other subjects ranging from food safety and the war in Afghanistan to agriculture and the relationship with the United States got less support than the percentage of people who were undecided. But when asked where the government should spend more or spend less, the answers were somewhat different and varied considerably across the country.

For example, when asked whether the government should invest in specific sectors to save jobs, 16% of respondents said the feds should spend less.

In Quebec, for example, 4% said the government should spend less, but in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, 39% said the government should spend less.

While cuts to arts and culture funding cost the Conservatives dearly in Quebec in the last election, respondents were most likely to choose that as an area where they would cut.

The poll found that 32% would cut spending on cultural, sports and recreation infrastructure -- ranging from 15% in Quebec to 49% in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. While 42% would reduce grants to cultural industries, that ranged from 28% in Quebec to 59% in Alberta.

Can Project Niagara Succeed?

Recession forces NAC to cut up to 40 jobs
By Cassandra Drudi, The Ottawa Citizen
June 10, 2009

One of Ottawa's cultural institutions is facing cuts to combat lowered sales brought on by the recession, as the National Arts Centre, faced with a budget shortfall of $3.8 million next year, will slash as many as 40 positions over the next two years. It will also make cuts in programming and administration.

"The impact of the recession has affected our business lines," Jayne Watson, director of communications for the NAC, said Tuesday. Everything from parking to restaurant sales and catering to box office sales and fundraising has been affected, she said.

The NAC aims to spread the cuts evenly across the programming and administrative side of its business and the wage and workforce side of things.

Watson said most of the cuts, which would reduce the workforce by about 10 per cent, should come through a combination of attrition, leaving vacant positions unfilled, and a "voluntary departure program," with a package open to all full-time staff.

The program is open to staff for a three-week period, and the NAC should have "a pretty good sense of how it's all going to play out" this summer, she said.

Tuesday's news comes about a month after National Gallery director Marc Mayer sent an e-mail to employees inviting them to take unpaid leaves or early retirement in an effort to prevent a deficit and avoid layoffs, citing financial concerns.

NAC employees were notified in an e-mail from the chief executive officer in March that there could be budgetary problems ahead, Watson said.

Those attending the NAC for subscription programming in 2009-2010 will likely not see a difference when in the audience, as that programming will not be affected by the cuts because it was all booked a year or more in advance, Watson said.

"For most people next year, in terms of audience, it will be seamless," she said. "Where it may be more evident is in 2010-2011."

By then, artistic directors will have a "slightly reduced envelope" to work with, she said.

Non-subscription programs, including Canada Day and other community programming, could be affected in the more immediate future, Watson said.

The belt-tightening can be seen in the annual Canada Day rooftop terrace party for donors and sponsors. The event, which used to have an open bar, will have a cash bar this year.

The invitation advises guests: "In keeping with the current economic climate, the NAC has simplified the format for this event."

The NAC hopes the impact of the budget shortfall on audiences and programming will be minimal.

"Obviously there will be an impact, but we believe that we can still manage through this process and put on terrific programming," Watson said.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

CBC changes format of Radio Two
Jan 17, 2007 09:10 PM
Andrea Baillie Canadian press

TORONTO – CBC's classical music station, Radio Two, is revamping its evening and late-night programming in a bid to attract younger listeners, the public broadcaster announced Wednesday.

"Half of our audience on Radio Two now is over 65 ... and we're not attracting new listeners into the service," said Jane Chalmers, vice-president of CBC Radio.

"We want to bring in the 40-plus kind of group ... In some ways it's our listeners' kids that we want."

The changes, set to take place March 19, will also affect programming on Radio One, including the cancellation of the afternoon pop-culture chat show "Freestyle."

Other CBC shows to be scrapped because of the revamp include ``Global Village" and "Brave New Waves."

Under the new format, Radio Two will feature a daily jazz program from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to be hosted in Montreal on weekdays by Katie Malloch. It will air from Calgary on weekends.

It will be followed from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. by a show focusing on live music performed by acts across the country. The weekday host for that show will be Matt Galloway, who will also continue his Toronto drive-time duties on Radio One.

Laurie Brown, formerly of "The New Music," will helm a nightly contemporary music show from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Radio Two.

The changes also mean that Radio One listeners can expect to hear more talk and drama and less music.

"Dispatches," hosted by Rick MacInnes-Rae, will be expanded to include elements of the world music show "Global Village."

Chalmers said the changes are designed, in part, to better reflect the makeup of the country.

"The growth in Canada now is happening through immigration. We're seeing people move to different parts of the country, they want to hear more music coming from the communities that they live in," she said, referring to the new program of live concerts across Canada.

"We have to constantly look at how we are serving Canadians from the perspective of where they are and the perspective of their interests."

Chalmers said the changes mean that 63 employees at CBC will be reassigned, possibly resulting in one or two layoffs.

The watchdog group Friends of Canadian Broadcasting has been a frequent critic of CBC-TV, but had praise for Wednesday's radio announcement.

"You have to update and improve," said spokesman Ian Morrison, calling the changes "responsible management."

"We have to support the idea of trying to adjust to younger demographics ... and as long as they're sensitive to their existing audience, I commend them."


What are your thoughts on Project Niagara? What do you think of our alternative vision of an ecopark?

Please share your point of view.

Note: All points of view are welcome. We only ask that comments be kept brief and maintain a civil tone. Comments will be moderated.

Our Goals and Objectives

Our Goals
  1. To promote the establishment of a park, on the Parks Canada property on Lakeshore Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake, which:
    a) Preserves, protects and rehabilitates the forests, prairies, wetlands, and shoreline,
    b) Protects the wildlife that uses the above habitats,
    c) Preserves and presents the First Nations, early settlement and military heritage,
    d) Is accessible by the public;
  2. To oppose any use of the Parks Canada property on Lakeshore Road in Niagara-on-the-Lake which is inconsistent with the use described above.

Our Objectives

For any development of the Parks Canada property on Lakeshore Rd., we want:

  1. To ensure the land is developed in a way that is respectful of the natural and historic sites, that is environmentally sound, and that has minimal impact to the flora and fauna;

  2. To ensure the land is developed in a way that has minimal impact to the quality of life of NOTL residents;

  3. To ensure the land is developed in a way that is neutral-to-positive for NOTL ratepayers;

  4. To ensure the longer term impacts of any development are anticipated and addressed;

  5. To encourage any development to have an open and transparent process that involves all stakeholders in our community.

Click here to view a slide show containing pictures of the Parks Canada Lakeshore Road site. Click on download at the bottom of the screen (it may take a while to load).

What is Project Niagara?

Project Niagara is the working name for a summer music festival being proposed by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and the National Arts Centre.

The festival would run for 17 weeks, and expects to attract 260,000 people, with average concert attendance of 5,000. The artistic program has been described as classical, pops, popular, jazz, blues, music theatre and world music.

Project Niagara is proposing to develop the 260 acre Parks Canada property at the west end of the the Old Town. Plans include:
  1. Two amphitheatres, plus a rehearsal/recital hall
  2. A restaurant, a VIP café, and concession areas
  3. Picnic areas
  4. Toilets for 4,500 people
  5. Administration and maintenance areas
  6. Parking for 2,010 cars, plus a drop off area for shuttles

Restricted access to the Carolinian forest has been mentioned but details are yet to be determined.

Public access to Niagara Shores and to a presentation centre to commemorate the Battle of Fort George, which Parks Canada hopes to develop at the east end of the property, has also yet to be determined.

To view further details of the Project Niagara Phase 2 Feasibility Study, click here and select "download" at the bottom of the page.


Welcome from Harmony Residents Group!

Welcome to the Harmony Residents Group.
Our purpose is to establish Onghiara Natural Heritage Park, an ecopark in a special location Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. We have concerns about another proposal, known as Project Niagara, to develop a music festival on the same site.

On these pages you will find details of our vision. You will also find information and analysis on Project Niagara, explaining why we think it is an inappropriate proposal for this site.