Beach canteen closed, surrounded by customers?
With so much effort going into improving Old Aylmer and other neighbourhoods, it is incredible that again this year the canteen is closed at the beach.
Park des cèdres is host to thousands of visitors weekly. On the July 7-8 weekend, the park was filled with families. They come from a twenty-five-kilometre radius and spend the whole day, well into the long summer evenings. Swimming under the watchful eyes of municipal lifeguards, playing sports in the city-manicured green areas, and enjoying spreads of meals from all over the world at the city’s picnic tables, the park felt like a United Nations summer vacation centre. The mood was joyous and the parking lots filled. Although the many luxury cars indicate the affluence of visitors, the question of the economic viability of running a canteen remains a non-starter: it was shut all weekend. Every weekend.
Why is the canteen closed? There are summer jobs and guaranteed profit here.
Several years ago, cold drinks, ice cream and other beach treats were available near the shower and washroom facilities. When Place aux jeunes stopped running it, no one attempted to find a replacement. Place aux jeunes is an organization designed to help youth gain working experience, and also ran the mini-putt near the Marina Restaurant’s parking lot. The administration of Place aux jeunes grew weary a few years ago, as often happens, and did not replace their people overseeing these projects. They were simply renters.
The owner, the City of Gatineau, has few answers as to why the canteen remains closed. The former ward councillor had told the Bulletin that Place aux jeunes was leaving and that “the city is open to offering the space to someone else”. But when the Bulletin asked local merchants already in the business of selling popsicles and water bottles if they had been approached by the city, not a single one knew of this business opportunity. The new councillor has had no information or communications on the boarded-up canteen.
Businesses aren’t to blame for not stepping up. Most Aylmer businesspeople are working while the rest of us enjoy the fresh air of the Marina and adjacent park. How could they know this prime commercial space was available?
How does the City communicate with merchants on these bread-and-butter issues? For snow removal and skating rink clearing, there is a specific website where tender offers are posted, and businesses can register to bid on them. But if the opportunity is not a recurring event, how would they know to look here? And is the canteen rental opportunity even posted?
Alternatively, why doesn’t the City itself run it as a service to improve our experience of the park?
The question is of Québec’s fourth largest city meeting all the needs of a modern, active urban population. There’s no need for a big investment to build something new; the infrastructure, cultural practices and popular interest are clearly there -- these are usually a municipality’s challenge.
Is there a deeper problem, other than oversight?