Trac Consulting had the duty of capturing the opinions of the approximately 50 locals who participated in the two-hour session.
What facilitators heard from one side was a desire to leave the river and the area around it as close to natural as possible.
“I don’t think there is a town in Canada that got the asset we have running right through our backyard,” said Don Pelley, long time user of the Exploits River.
“Once you start development that means someone owns, not everyone owns it.”
“We have a classic opportunity to protect the natural integrity of the river,” he added.
Others in the room felt it would be a lost opportunity if there weren’t developments that brought a variety of entities and even some jobs.
Participants were helping build a vision for lands running from the golf course at the west end of the town boundaries to the eastern boundary on the north side of the Exploits.
The impetus for the visioning exercise is the demolition of the old paper mill site that will take place over the next one-and-a-half years.
Participants spoke of the need to decontaminate land at the actual mill site. They also suggested that if any industrial activity were to be considered for that area, it should be contained to those parcels that had already been affected by industrial activity.
Many who spoke at the session suggested a combination of developments ranging from campgrounds, historic structures, walking and biking trails, condominium developments and even a convention centre/arena.
Some speakers encouraged the extension of Scott Avenue in the downtown section of town to join with the Trans Canada Highway at the western entrance to town. Still others suggested this roadway would diminish the natural beauty of the area.
The sessions facilitators said a vision statement arising out of Tuesday’s input discussion would be placed on the town of Grand Falls-Windsor website to encourage even further thinking on the subject by residents.
Mayor Al Hawkins addressed the session before discussions began.
“The river is a tremendous asset for us and it has tremendous potential,” he said. “The sky is the limit. Dream because there is nothing wrong with dreaming.”
It was noted that Tuesday’s session was considered the beginning of the process for development planning and no timeline was given for producing a plan.
Further detail and reaction to Tuesday’s discussion will be included in the Advertiser print edition on Monday.