You might be reading about this and thinking, Beach Drive is just a small street. Who cares that much?! What’s the big deal, Wasaga Beach? Jack Canfield, the author of “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books told a story (I’ll paraphrase for brevity). “A man was strolling on a beach and witnessed another man strolling, but also throwing starfish back into the ocean. The first man approached the 2nd man and said, ‘my friend, there are thousands of washed up starfish here. It’s not going to make a difference.’ The 2nd man slowly bent down and threw another starfish back into the water and said, ‘it mattered to that one.'” Maybe the street is not a big deal to the general population, but it is to us!
This we are talking about is the historic Beach Drive that drives down in front of all the beachfront stores and bars. This Beach Drive is the one that someone you know has stories about driving the loop in their cool car back in the day. Since 2020 the town council had it filled in with sand because of occasional flooding and sand cleanup. It started in 2019 when all the lakes and rivers in Ontario were exceptionally high. That year our post dock got picked up by the high water and floated across to the other side of the river. The across-the-river neighbour called and said, “Hi, we’ve never met, but I’m your neighbour from across and I think your dock is at our house.”
It’s Now Open!
So the famous Beach Drive has had all of its sand removed back to the pavement that it had had for decades. There are even photos dating from the 1930’s depicting cars driving there. Mind you, it was just sand then and not as much of an organized “street” as we know it today.
There was some debate during the closed time about returning the street to its former glory. In the end though, there was far more support in favour of bringing it back. So much so that we had a growing petition urging council to remove the sand and reinstate. Sure enough, in mid-November, shortly after new council was sworn in and the town’s new CAO began, the decision was made. Tractors and trucks began appearing at at the beach.
Beach Drive Opening Day
To much hoopla, on January 17th, 2023 at 11am we had a ceremony for the re-opening of Beach Drive. With the new council there, local news outlets and a lineup of cars all waiting to celebrate and do the “loop.” Town Hall’s Announcement here. Many excited residents posted photos all over social media of their cruise of the strip.
We drove the strip of course too! Several days later we even saw there were still a surprising amount of cars driving down there, day and night, stopping and taking photos. It became a “thing.” Keep in mind, there are no businesses open this time of year on the strip. It’s January after all. People were there to celebrate it. Whether it was for just the lake views or to honour the re-opening, it was basically the same thing.
Why it’s Good to Have Beach Drive Open
Again, this cool street goes back to the 1920’s and then it gets paved in the early 1970’s or so. It was lined with exciting stores, amusements, and family owned accommodations that scream nostalgia when you think about it today. In fact, whenever a historic photo is posted on social media, there’s always a few folks reminiscing in their comments or wishing for the same vibe to return to Wasaga. Many chime in about who owned what business. Some have a little story about patronizing a certain shop every time their family visited town. You can’t help but feel a vicarious pleasure.
Maybe my generation can bring back some fun to the beach. The longer I’ve been a part of the community, I’ve wanted to add something to the beach, apart from our cottages. Who knows… an inflatable water park, ferris wheel, or carousel. We’re certainly on the right track when the carnival comes to the main beach though. I make sure we come out and support them and spend money.
So we have about 100 years of Beach Drive. 100 year old buildings along it that still stand today. The fond memories and what it represents. It’s as sacred and a part of our town as the historic buildings that front it and the lake that backs it.
Support for the Businesses
There are businesses along that street. They get exposure from foot traffic, but sometimes visitors to Wasaga don’t want to walk around the main beach, but they would happily drive it to check it out. Therefore, the shops along there get more exposure from folks who wouldn’t normally go. Look at drive-thru’s and how popular they are. Many people would rather not walk into a fast food joint, but they’ll easily go through the drive-thru.
The parking was a good thing too. It enabled people to park closer to where they could shop. This wasn’t as feasible when you had to park up in the municipal lot. On top of it, you could jump out and pay a meter $1.00 for 20 minutes while you grab a t-shirt and take-out. Compare that to the municipal lots that demand a minimum of $6 and a further walk.
Because Why Not?
The flooding and sand cleanup of Beach Drive in 2019 was a burden for the town. The high water levels gobbled up the beaches and low spots. Filling in with sand was an idea… though, maybe it should’ve just stayed as an idea. It’s important to note that water levels rise and fall with trends. They are rarely permanent. Do you think in it’s 100 year history that it never had a high water level year? You’re darn right it would have! And it didn’t get filled in and shut down indefinitely.
Let’s consider safety for a minute of a busy pedestrian area. Ok done. It’s a street like anywhere else. However, on this one, people drive really slow as it is.
It could mean more smog at the beach. It’s doubtful that the smog is that concentrated to be bothersome. There’s an awesome life hack in this though: to live smog free, you should never go near a street.
Beach Drive Re-Opening Represents Liberation and a Change
Speaking with many locals, Wasaga has felt like it was under a cloud for some years. Residents grew concerned with questionable politics happening. As far as moral, it seemed like Wasaga was going backward… even becoming sterile. Some suggested that Beach Drive was kept closed as a measure to discourage tourism. It definitely made you wonder based on some of the other funky things happening. Namely, municipal parking lots were closed for awhile, different groups/clubs/event weekends were turned away.
With the re-opening of Beach Drive, it symbolized a shift. A shift akin to the lockdown being over – and we know that all too well! It was a small step toward what the glory days were like. A welcoming of an old friend that just returned after a long time away.