Barge builders ordered off Cornwall waterfront

A custom floating home on a barge sits on Cornwall's waterfront near Gray's Creek on Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019. The City of Cornwall ordered the two companies working there to remove their heavy equipment from the parking lot, which is part of a public dock. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – Two companies associated with barge building were ordered to clear their equipment off Cornwall’s section of waterfront in the east end.

After a struggle for several weeks, it appears they have complied.

The custom barge building started this summer with a lot of media attention, including a focus piece from the Cornwall Business Enterprise Center.

But the heavy equipment, including a front-end loader and a crane, started taking up space in the gravel parking lot next to the Boundary Road dock on the St. Lawrence River – a public facility for taxpayers.

To nearby onlookers, it appeared that a commercial business was working on the waterfront.

Julia Borman, a newcomer to the area, was upset. “This is a wonderful, unsung, beauty of a spot – one of, if not the best place I’ve ever lived, and I couldn’t be happier, or more blessed, to have found my way here after decades of bobbing around Canada. I dread, however, the possibility that it’s going to become a giant, unregulated, junk yard of floating half-homes-on-barges,” she wrote in an email to Cornwall Newswatch.

A barge is tied to a tree on Cornwall’s waterfront near Gray’s Creek on Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2019. The city has ordered two companies working there this summer to remove their equipment from the parking lot, which is park of a public dock. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

Cornwall Parks and Recreation Division Manager Jamie Fawthrop told CNW they worked out a plan with the companies to move their equipment.

“It’s zoned open space so that kind of activity isn’t permitted within the zoning. Along the water’s edge where they’re in the water, is not city property, so it’s outside our jurisdiction. But the activities of assembling the barge and the heavy equipment isn’t permissible under the zoning,” Jamie Fawthrop.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada referred questions from Cornwall Newswatch to the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, who had yet to respond as of late Friday afternoon.

As of the end of September, Fawthrop says one of the two companies had already left and cleaned up some scrap metal.

Drake Cartier, president of Canadian Barge Builders, says they were working on site this summer because “we built a barge for the City of Cornwall.”

“I’m not too worried about it. It’s already taken care of. There’s no issues there. Equipment’s gone,” Cartier said.

As of Wednesday afternoon, one barge with a custom home on it was parked on the shoreline while another flat barge was tied to a tree. Both were either partially or fully in the water.

Asked what is going to happen to those two barges, Cartier said “they’re on federal waterways. They’re allowed to be there as long as they want.”

The area is identified in Cornwall’s newly endorsed waterfront plan as a prime area for development.